Sunday, November 10, 2013

Law Enforcement Using Sophisticated Technology to Catch Child Predators

On July 13, BISD investigators used a Cellebrite forensic extraction device to search a Samsung cellphone owned by Alfredo Hernandez of Brownsville, a former choir teacher at Berta Cabeza Middle School in San Benito who, authorities say, called himself “Freddy Love,” according to court records.
On the phone, investigators found child pornography and text messages to underage girls asking for nude photos, according to documents obtained by The Brownsville Herald.
Last week, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of online solicitation of a minor and four counts of child pornography in 103rd state District Court in Cameron County.
It was the Cellebrite that made the case against Hernandez possible, BISD police Sgt. Patrick Gabbert, one of two BISD officers trained on the device, said.
“Cellphones, especially if they’re Internet capable, are now being used to commit all sorts of criminal activity — solicitation of minors, child pornography, narcotics offenses and harassment to name a few,” Gabbert said.
He added that other Rio Grande Valley law enforcement agencies have reached out to BISD to utilize the Cellebrite. He said Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz has a philosophy that area law enforcement agencies need to work together for the common good and that BISD is already using the device to help other departments.
“We want to make sure our kids are safe, that our community is safe,” Gabbert said. “This is one tool. ... We’re here to work with all agencies.”
He said the Cellebrite is able to extract data from a cellphone or tablet computer’s unallocated memory and that the evidence stands up in court.
“This was a case where our suspect was reaching out to over 300 different girls. At first all we had was names he was searching for on Facebook,” Gabbert said. “It was not until we got a search warrant for his cellphone that we were able to get the evidence of online solicitation and identify the live victims.”
Gabbert said the case shows how important it is for parents to monitor their children’s Internet activity. The parents of the victims “at first could not believe their daughters had been the victim of a sexual predator,” he said.
Gabbert offered parents this advice: “Monitor what your kids are doing online. Know their passwords. Know who they’re in contact with and know how to contact them.
“Talk to your kids about the dangers of the Internet because these sexual predators know how to talk to our kids better than you or I do — and that’s the scary part.”
BISD Superintendent Carl A. Montoya said the Cellebrite is an important tool in keeping students safe.
“As always, our priority is protecting our students and employees,” he said. “We added this new technology to assist in our investigations and it has already proved invaluable. We are also pleased that we have been able to share this important new resource with the local law enforcement agencies that support our schools and district on a daily basis.”
Montoya is the vice chairman of the Texas School Safety Center, which serves as the central location for the dissemination of safety and security information, including research, training, and technical assistance for K-12 schools and junior colleges throughout Texas.
This Story originally appeared in The Brownsville Herald and was written by GARY LONG.

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