By Jessica Farrish
Criminals are using technology to commit crimes and that makes the job of law enforcement officers more dangerous, Lt. Chuck L. Cohen of the Indiana State Police told sheriffs from across West Virginia Monday.
Gathered at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels for the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association meeting, Cohen let them know that drug dealers hang out on Facebook and MySpace and move money via store cards.
“The reality is, MySpace matters again,” Cohen said.
Like the general population, certain criminals have preferences on where they meet online.
Cohen told police in urban areas — particularly around West Virginia University, for example — to go to MySpace to get leads on suspects, potential witnesses and more information on crimes.
In Indiana, a computer helped police solve a murder. By tracking the online history of the victim, it revealed to police that he had been involved with the wife of a man who had been working a civilian job in Afghanistan. The husband’s son had alerted him via Facebook that his wife was cheating. The husband killed his wife’s lover after returning to the United States.
He urged officers to keep up with the ever-advancing technological frontier.
“Those of us in law enforcement tend to be moderates,” he said. “We’re resistant to change.
“We’re also very good at using yesterday’s technology tomorrow,” he added, earning laughs.
Technology has made work more dangerous for officers, Cohen warned.
Drug dealers are now using tracking apps like life360 to follow the progress of those “mules” who deliver the drugs.
When an officer intercepts the drugs and arrests the mule, the dealer immediately knows something is wrong and also has the officer’s location. Officers can put the phone in “airplane mode” to suspend the tracking apps, said Cohen.
Instead of using cash, drug dealers are using store cards to move funds. Cohen said they purchase the cards, loading up to $5,000 on one card.
If the tracked mule is stopped, he said, dealers can transfer the balance of the card from one store financial system to another without leaving the house.
If the value is exchanged to currency other than dollars and the website used is outside of the United States, getting subpoenas becomes a long process that can impede a criminal investigation, he added.
In some cases, officers looking for large sums of cash may even overlook the store cards, said Cohen.
He also warned that mentally unbalanced criminals may have blogs, profiles or visit conspiracy sites where they consistently make statements over a period of time that suggest they are likely to be planning attacks, the trooper said.
Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner said Cohen’s presentation was “fascinating” and timely for West Virginia officers.
In addition to the sheriffs’ meeting, around 300 police officers from around southern West Virginia attended a Street Survival Seminar at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center Monday.
Started by Tanner, the free seminars save money for the county by bringing speakers and trainers to police officers instead of paying the cost of sending multiple officers to training seminars out of town.
During Street Survival, officers of various jurisdictions from across southern West Virginia heard retired Lt. Jim Glennon and Sgt. Keith Wenzel deliver training.
Both events will continue today.