Institute to target high tech criminals

A new Hoover facility will make Shelby County one of the nation&8217;s top training destinations in the fight against high tech crime.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and state officials on Friday unveiled the National Computer Forensic Institute. The facility, located in the Hoover Public Safety Center on Valleydale Road, will be developed by the U.S. Secret Service.

&8220;The same technologies that are a part of every-day life in the 21st century are routinely used by criminal groups for their nefarious activities,&8221; said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a released statement. &8220;This institute will turn the tables on these criminal groups and equip law enforcement with sophisticated skills to use the same technologies in combating criminal activity.&8221;

The center, partially funded by the Shelby County Commission, will be used to train state and local police officers as well as prosecutors and judges.

&8220;It will feature the latest in identity theft and cyber crime,&8221; said Shelby County Chief Deputy John Samaniego. &8220;This will put us on the cutting edge.&8221;

County Manager Alex Dudchock referred to the institute as a &8220;world-class&8221; facility, attracting thousands of visitors each year for training, think-tank gatherings and symposiums.

&8220;This project will have a direct economic impact on our county with the hundreds of trainees participating in the initial programs and the anticipated growth of the Institute&8217;s offerings,&8221; Dudchock said in a written report to the commission.

Shelby County has pledged support for the project by funding up to $250,000 in architectural and engineering expenses.

Hoover will lease 33,000 square feet of space in the city-owned complex to the Secret Service rent-free for six years. The federal agency will spend nearly $9 million a year to fund the institute.

The facility will include classrooms, a computer forensic lab, an evidence vault, storage and server rooms, public education exhibit space and a conference room.

&8220;Today&8217;s high tech environment presents new challenges to law enforcement as cyber criminals exploit computers and the Internet to threaten our banking, financial and critical infrastructures,&8221; said Secret Service Deputy Director Brian Nagel. &8220;As a result, law enforcement has been propelled into technologically non-traditional terrain requiring highly specialized skills and innovative applications of traditional investigative strategies. It is imperative to address the changes in technology by providing training on cyber-investigative techniques and by sharing current expertise among federal, state and local officers.&8221;

The National Computer Forensic Institute is scheduled to open in January, though some classes could begin sooner, officials said