NEWINGTON - Police are taking steps to combat cyber crime with the newly forming Connecticut Center for Digital Forensics.
Newington and eight other municipal bodies are establishing the center via an inter-local agreement approved unanimously by the Town Council this week.
Chief of Police Stephen Clark presented the contract to the council at its last meeting and it moved forward by an 8-0 vote Tuesday night. Its passage formalizes an arrangement in use by Newington, East Hartford, Manchester, Middletown, Glastonbury, Vernon, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and the University of Connecticut. All nine currently deploy select staff to a lab in Manchester, where they conduct digital investigations.
These range from distribution and possession of child pornography on the internet to sex trafficking, financial fraud and identity theft. Police also use the lab to monitor social media for intelligence gathering, criminal behavior and threats to public safety.
The group’s efficiency has increased use of the lab by outside agencies in recent years, thus creating a need for a more official arrangement. Aside from the nine participating towns, 21 other agencies have conducted investigations there, leading to a shortfall in the budget.
“It has been an informal work group, but the success of the lab has gotten so big, it requires a formal agreement,” Clark told the council. “What you have before you is the final product of months of chiefs working together, reviewed by corporate counsel.”
An administrative board composed of one member from each participating agency would create a policy outlining the access to services by non-member agencies.
Board members - mainly chiefs of police from each town - intend to employ outside access fees as revenue toward their operating budget.
Councilors were generally supportive of the contract. Councilor Gail Budrejko was curious as to why neighboring towns like Berlin and New Britain were not a part of present membership.
Some towns have their own labs, Clark explained. If Newington were to conduct its digital investigations in-house it would cost the town about $9,000 annually.
“Joining this initiative makes it more cost-effective,” he added.
A $3,000 line item in the police department’s 2017-18 budget has been allocated to this program and a Newington detective has been trained to work part time at the center.
The written agreement would be in effect for five years, after which it could be extended by the board.
Town Manager Tanya Lane told councilors Tuesday that the chief has a lot of confidence in the new initiative.
“This is something he believes in,” she said.
Regional resources are becoming more commonplace as towns look to different avenues for cost savings. This is just one more example, Councilor Tim Manke pointed out.
“For communities to work together for their mutual aid is a great thing, and something I think we’re going to be doing more and more,” he said.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.