Computer criminals are proliferating faster than Michigan police can investigate them in overburdened and understaffed computer labs, reports the Detroit News. It typically takes six to eight months before technicians at state labs can even begin extracting information from seized computers. Lengthy training that can cost more than $50,000 per officer has hampered adding workers who help track down everyone from online predators to identity thieves, scam artists, and embezzlers.
“I'd like to say we're going to turn a corner and get caught up, but there isn't enough money in the public sector,” said director Skip Lawver of the Center for Regional and National Security at Eastern Michigan University, where most police officers are trained. “Law enforcement management hasn't realized that a guy with a computer can steal a million in the blink of an eye.”
With fewer than 100 trained officers statewide, the demand for computer investigations is increasing faster than experts can keep up.
Defense attorneys worry that the delay could harm the rights of a accused people. “If the case is based solely on what's on the computer, then it probably won't matter,” said Mark Kriger, a Detroit defense attorney. “If it's based on the computer and on witnesses, witness memories can fade and their ability to remember exact details diminishes over time. Certainly, it can affect a defendant's right to a trial””
Lt. Brian Albright of the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit is part of a team with a caeload exceeding 400 per year. A new case that doesn't involve a homicide or other high-priority crime like a missing child often takes six to eight months to be reviewed. At local sheriff's departments, the waits can run several weeks. “I go to conferences and some states are a year and a half or two years behind,” he said.