By KYW tech editor Ian Bush

WEST CHESTER, Pa.  (CBS) – It’s becoming one of the most critical parts of police investigations, but it often stays in the shadows — or, in the case of Chester County, a windowless room down the hall from the District Attorney’s office.

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It’s the new Computer Forensics Lab, which is often the end of the road for criminals with something to hide.

(Detectives:) “You sure you don’t want us to look at your phone?”

(Reporter) “I’m positive, but thank you…”

You probably wouldn’t want to hand over your smartphone for a demo either, once you see what this lab can do:

“Digital data is available after it’s been deleted,” explains detective Joe Walton. “Even after it’s been deleted several times.  And even after it’s been deleted and sometimes overwritten, it’s still available to law enforcement.”

Walton and detective Roy Calarese are assigned full-time to Computer Forensics.

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“You name the criminal activity, we’ve probably had a case associated with that involving electronic evidence,” says Calarese.

Detective Joe Walton and detective Roy Calarese (Credit: Ian Bush)

Detective Joe Walton and detective Roy Calarese (Credit: Ian Bush)

A dozen monitors glow as custom PCs line the lab. Devices with LEDs and ports and touchscreens look ready-made for Q in the next Bond movie.

But villains who use phones and laptops and thumb drives to help in their crimes are all too real, says Chester County DA Tom Hogan:

“This is the future of criminal investigations here. Just like 20 years ago you couldn’t imagine any investigators working without fingerprints, in the future, you can’t imagine them being able to work without a computer forensics lab.”


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