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5/12/2017 11:25:00 AM
Inside Purdue's top secret, high tech crime lab

Joseph Paul, Journal and Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE — Police opened the doors Thursday to a secretive lab at Purdue University where crimes with digital evidence are solved.

The High Tech Crime Unit — a collaboration between Purdue and all four area law enforcement agencies — uses the lab to pore over data from phones, computers and other devices while detectives uncover evidence in murders, rapes, robberies and crimes against children.

The lab, tucked away in the basement of Mann Hall in Discovery Park, has served as a centralized location for the unit since November, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington said. For the first time, the lab was opened to the public Thursday to display the tools and expertise used to trace a criminal's digital tracks.

"This unit is only one of three of its kind in the United States that partners with a university," Harrington said. "This partnership allows for the use of cutting-edge forensic technology to assist in an investigation."

Digital evidence is becoming more and more ubiquitous in criminal investigations. Last year, for example, the unit analyzed 416 devices as part of 199 cases.

"Forensic evidence is critical in today's world, as it is not biased for or against anyone," Harrington said. "It is purely objective digital data. This type of evidence not only convicts the guilty, but it also exonerates the innocent."

Gary Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute, said graduate and undergraduate students in the cyber forensics program assist in investigations through internships.

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