Albuquerque PD to expand its social media sleuthing team
Chief Harold Medina said the Digital Intelligence Team has been instrumental in helping detectives solve cases
By Elise Kaplan
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Police Department hopes to more than double its unit devoted to helping solve violent crimes through online sleuthing.
The three-person Digital Intelligence Team has approval to add four new digital forensic examiners. The team of civilians use social media, phone data and more to help detectives solve crimes. Police Chief Harold Medina said it is "now the equivalent of what used to be DNA fingerprinting the past."
The three examiners — Colette Bridgewater, Kara Mosley and Kate Rosoff — all used to work in a similar unit at the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office and joined APD last July.
At a news conference lauding the successes of the unit, Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said the team was instrumental in the investigation into the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Trevonte Robbins last summer in Downtown. Four people have been charged in the case and police say the suspects had mistaken Robbins' friend for someone else and shot at the pair, killing Robbins and injuring his friend. Hartsock said the case rested almost entirely on the digital evidence, and little else had pointed to the suspects' connection with the crime.
"Prior to the team, a lot of this work was left for the individual detectives who had a wide array of training and background and time and resources to really dive in and do this kind of work," he said. "Here at the Albuquerque Police Department, we now treat it just like the lab treats DNA, or shell casings or projectiles. It takes a near full-time specialist to go through these things and piece it together."
In addition to being assigned cases as they come in, the team also looks through social media apps like SnapChat and Facebook messenger since that's where illicit drugs and guns are being traded.
"When we look at our murders that occur, we see a lot of these murders start right here," Hartsock said. "They start with an advertisement for drugs, an advertisement for guns. The deal was set up to look much like a Craigslist deal that you would do to buy a car. But instead it's for something illegal — guns and aggressive intentions are involved and it turns into a shooting, which sometimes turns into a murder."
Acknowledging that the department is short-staffed in terms of sworn officers, Chief Medina said funding for salaries has instead been put toward civilian units.
"It's important that we have the leeway at this time that we're short officers to continue to make these quick decisions and get resources on board that are going to assist us in solving crime as they've done in the past year," Medina said.
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