The Internet is a valuable tool, but for many it does much harm. Child exploitation and Internet fraud cases in the Valley are something the Chandler Computer Crimes Unit battles daily.
“What we do now is an effective, proactive way to combat the problems that are out there,” said Jason Hunsaker, a detective with the unit.
“We need continued support and the funding to keep up with equipment and technology because it’s a worthwhile cause.”
Prior to 2007, when the unit was formed, detectives worked on Internet crime cases while attached to other investigative units. Today a total of five detectives inspect computer crimes while working with other units within the department.
“There’s a lot of auction fraud, like eBay. A lot of times it’s something as simple as they didn’t get the product they paid for,” said Hunsaker.
Other common crimes include scams, such as those in which someone sends a cashier’s check for much more than the object they’re buying is worth.
“Then they would say something to the effect of, ‘Cash it, keep what you need and send me back the difference,’” said Hunsaker. “Nine times out of 10 that cashier’s check is counterfeit and your account is overdrawn by however much.”
Reports are usually filed when someone calls dispatch and from other agencies worldwide. The Computer Crimes Unit has worked with Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix police.
“If somebody became a victim of identity theft and they lived in Michigan, but the person who stole the identity lives out here, it’ll eventually make its way to us to investigate,” said Hunsaker.
The five detectives usually carry about 15-20 cases at a given time on their case track, according to Hunsaker. Some involve “some of the most horrific images that you can imagine,” said Detective David Ramer, public information officer for the Chandler Police Department.
But the work is also rewarding.
“The most satisfying thing about working here is taking that one computer out of circulation and having one less person who might be facilitating those images,” said Hunsaker. “There’s one less person contributing to the overall problem.”
Hunsaker wants parents to know about the importance of Web sites like netsmartz411.org, a tips and tricks Web site associated with the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children that’s part of a national effort to combat computer crimes.
“Parents should do whatever they can do to educate themselves on parental controls for the computer,” said Hunsaker.
“The biggest thing is for parents to be aware of what their kids are doing online, they should know all their kids’ passwords and know about social networking sites. Parents need to know who their kids are talking to.”