The process of arresting a child predator could take up to eight months with investigators taking computers from the suspect's home or business and transporting them to a crime lab for further study.
But the Attorney General’s office is trying to streamline that by rolling out two new trucks that act as computer forensic laboratories on wheels.
“It allows us to bring all of the evidence out of a residence or a business, and we can analyze it in the vehicle, pull the data off related to the crime that we’re investigating,” Braden Cook, Senior Supervisory Special Agent, said. “And it also gives us the ability to interview the suspects in the vehicle, as well, and do a complete case on scene where we used to have to take it back to our office.”
He said once local police identify that a crime has been committed, they obtain a search warrant and call the special unit in the AG's office,which then brings the truck to the scene.
“The child predators, those who prey on our sons and daughters, those who have disgusting, graphic images of someone else’s sons and daughter just for their own sick pleasure, this truck makes sure that we can arrest those people,” PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane said.
The trucks are stocked with computers and an interview room where Kane said many suspects have confessed.
She said the special unit arrested 114 child predators in 2013 and 107 so far this year – compared to the 19 that were arrested in 2011.
The truck was used as recently as Monday night when Kane accompanied the special agents to arrest Jeremy Zorich of East Pittsburgh who is being charged on possession and distribution of child pornography.
“This office did not have a dedicated unit prior to 2013,” Kane said. “Now we have specialized, highly trained agents who every single day sit on that computer and pose as a seven-year-old girl or a 12-year-old boy so that they can catch these sick people.”
There are currently two of the trucks deployed in the commonwealth. For the most part they keep to either one side of the state or another. A smaller one is being built to work cases in Philadelphia.
Kane said the trucks have also helped to arrest 17 “travelers.”
“Travelers are those sick people who get in their car, who get in their truck, and they travel from county to county, state to state to meet who they think who is the little girl or little boy, and we’re waiting there for them,” Kane said. “We’re waiting in the parking lots, we’re waiting in the malls, we’re waiting in the restaurants that they think they’re going to meet a child.”
The special unit in western Pennsylvania consists of two attorneys and six agents.
The trucks are also being used for other cases including drug trafficking and insurance fraud.