Lt. Charles Cohen, an Indiana state trooper, is at the forefront of the idea that police officers need to get better at incorporating the online world into their patrols, the Associated Press reports. Many police departments have computer crews that do skillful forensic analysis on hard drives and specialize in nailing online predators. Cohen is trying to reach everyone else in law enforcement: beat cops, homicide detectives, and other investigators who think monitoring the Internet is not their responsibility.
Whether it’s on MySpace, Facebook, “Second Life” or other Web sites, criminals and victims – especially young ones – are leaving clues in plain sight online, even for offline crimes. Things people once wrote in private diaries now cascade through Web sites that stimulate free expression and are open to anyone who comes looking. “People under 25 tend to think about what is public versus private information differently from the rest of us, and that is great for law enforcement investigators,” Cohen told a conference at National White Collar Crime Center. The anonymity and sheer scope of the Internet can make it easier for criminals to cover their tracks. The trick for cops is to figure out how to keep up.