TOPEKA, Kan. -- On the third floor of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation headquarters sits a secure room full of electronics.
Computer hard drives are wrapped in red evidence tape. Cell phones are plugged into high-tech equipment, and computer parts sit bundled on stacks of paper.
Many of the hard drives have explicit images of children stored on them. The cell phones may contain information essential to solving a crime in Kansas.
The KBI's cyber crimes unit assists law enforcement agencies statewide in processing computer evidence that may hold rich clues to crimes. This work requires specialized investigators to uncover the information.
But there's a backlog. Each piece of technology must wait for its turn to be processed by forensic examiners.
Right now, the KBI is turning away cases because the agency has too much to handle, said Dave Schroeder, special agent in charge of the KBI's cyber crimes unit.
"We're behind," he said. "The demand for our services has increased; more cases are coming through the door and we don't have enough examiners to do the processing."
The agency processes between 50 and 75 major cyber crime cases each year, Schroeder said. There are only three forensic examiners to conduct the work. A fourth examiner begins work Monday.
What they do
Many of the cases are more involved than the two cyber crimes with connections to Lawrence that were investigated this week:
--A missing 15-year-old Texas girl was found in Lawrence after police tracked the IP address she used to sign into her MySpace account. The 33-year-old man she was with was charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
--Shawnee police uncovered a crime spree in Shawnee and Lawrence finding a video recording posted on YouTube that showed the suspects in the act.
Still, they're good examples of the work cyber crimes investigators do. Without them, those crimes may have gone unresolved, Schroeder said.
The KBI cyber crimes unit investigates anything related to the Internet, which includes child pornography, network intrusion, missing and endangered children, kidnapping, threatening e-mail, online solicitation and child predator cases.
Some of the cases may involve the analysis one piece of equipment, while others may involve 15, Schroeder said. Some of the cases are quick to solve, but some can take weeks or months.
While the KBI is referring many of the cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which Schroeder said also has a backlog of cyber crime cases, the state agency is looking to expand its division to better handle the caseload. Schroeder said the KBI would be asking lawmakers for additional funding next year for more resources.
A similar request by Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six's office, which also operates a cyber crime unit, was not fulfilled by the legislature, said spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett. Six asked legislators to add $430,000 to his budget to hire four new employees.
The office now has one prosecutor and one investigator to handle cases.
"That's not enough," Anstaett said. "We are doing our best to take care of the reports that come into us."
Six will again go back to the legislature and ask for money, she said.
Schroeder said it's a new era of investigations and it's challenging to keep up with all the technological developments that are constantly changing. It takes people and money.
"What you have is the new generation of kids growing up with cell phones, text messaging, YouTube, the new generation of technology-savvy people," said Schroeder. "As law enforcement you have to be knowledgeable and go where the information is."
A handful of law enforcement agencies in the state -- including Lawrence police -- have their own cyber crimes units, which is helping to ease the load, Schroeder said. But he said it's not enough, and as the need for forensic investigations grows, the backlog will get worse.
"We see a need for increasing the number of people who have specialized skills," he said. "Depending on what the support is at the legislative level, we may or may not get additional positions. So we do the best we can with what we have."