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High-tech crimes task force plays pivotal role in solving crimes
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After a report came in to Lathrop Police Services this week that an unidentified person had made threats on an unspecified school, investigators had little to go off in identifying the suspect and determining the validity of the threat.

But technology and the collaborative nature of law enforcement yielded quick results – wrapping up the tense situation in a matter of hours and putting parents and school administrators at ease that the threat itself was without any real substance or intent to cause harm.

According to Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, it was the fact that the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Office – which provides policing services to the City of Lathrop under contract – had a detective assigned to the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force that allowed for investigators to get a jump on identifying the juvenile responsible and determining that three people were involved in making the threats.

“Usually to get a warrant you have to write an affidavit and then go to a judge and wait for that process to play out, but we didn’t have to do that here,” said Biedermann, noting that the critical nature of the incident prompted special handling. “We called our guy and he was able to get onto his computer and message the companies because of the exigent circumstance that there was a threat of violence.

“We had to start out with a wide net and post deputies at every single school because the threat was specific, but very quickly we are able to close that net as we got more intel and determine who it was that was responsible.”

And technically, the deputy that helped crack the case wasn’t even supposed to be working that day.

Biedermann said that when the unidentified employee got the call, he was actually home sick in bed with a fever and pulled out his work laptop and very quickly went through the necessary steps to bypass the traditional warrant process.

Having somebody that was assigned to the detail, Biedermann said, made all the difference in the world.

“Law enforcement is typically cooperative, and we could have called that task force and asked for their help, but in this case, we can call our guy on his personal cell phone and get that started right away,” Biedermann said. “We were working with absolutely no information and having that access really, benefitted the investigators in finding out who these young men were, and what their intentions were.”

The task force was organized in the mid-90s by the Sacramento County Sherriff’s Office and has since grown into an entity which covers three core areas – identity theft, child pornography, and hi-tech crimes. As of last year, there were more than 110 affiliate law enforcement agencies in the state that work with the task force on a rotating, part-time basis, and some of the investigators involved with the detail are occasionally cross-referenced as United States Marshals and are Task Force Officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation Task Force.

Biedermann also credited the Manteca Unified School District in clearing some of the red tape that exists for law enforcement when dealing with cases that involve juveniles and for handing down stiff penalties for the students that were discovered to be behind the threat. Because of the frequency at which these incidents have occurred, and the resource drain that they provide on agencies like Lathrop Police Services – which needed to call in reinforcements from the Sheriff’s Office – Biedermann has said that he’s going to begin working on the process of potentially allowing for the cost of police response in hoaxes to be passed on as a part of the restitution process.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.