UCPO launches Cybercrime Task Force

The Prosecutor’s Office has launched its newly formed Cybercrime Task Force, streamlining the Office’s technological investigative functions while giving municipal police departments countywide the opportunity to have some of their top officers trained in such disciplines, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Friday.

Veteran UCPO Sgt. Gary Webb was promoted to Lieutenant earlier this month and assigned the responsibility of leading the Task Force’s staff of one sergeant, six detectives, and a rotating cast of on-loan officers from other departments.

“Technology is now a major part of virtually every investigation, especially cellular phones and cameras,” Lt. Webb said. “Our Task Force is designed to support all our units and all the local departments in any way we can to strengthen their investigations.”

The Task Force brings the Office’s Electronic Surveillance, High Tech, and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) units together under one roof at a confidential location. The investigative staff’s responsibilities are to include:

  • Serving as a support system for the Office’s Narcotics Strike Force and other units by installing and managing all covert surveillance equipment and the Office’s wiretap system and related equipment
  • Conducting forensic examinations of digital devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and computers
  • Performing video recovery for active investigations by responding to crime scenes and surrounding areas to download footage from any available video surveillance systems
  • Conducting investigations into the possession and distribution of child pornography countywide

Along with its complement of UCPO investigators, the Task Force currently also includes on-loan officers from the Garwood, Kenilworth, and Mountainside police departments, and an officer from Clark will also join next month. A total of nine departments have made personnel commitments, including the Union County Police Department and the municipal police departments in Cranford, Hillside, Plainfield, and Springfield.

Such officers are eligible to serve on the Task Force anywhere from one to six months, during which time they are trained on two separate “tracks” – the first of which features instruction on electronic surveillance and video recovery, and the second of which focuses on digital forensic examination.   

“The UCPO Cybercrime Task Force offers municipal police departments an opportunity to have our officers receive training and gain experience in investigations that normally would be difficult and/or costly, making them trained assets that can bring back expertise to be shared at the local level,” said Clark Police Chief Pedro Matos, 2019 President of the Union County Police Chiefs Association. “We applaud and support the Prosecutor’s Office in the initiative.”  

“This Task Force is a unique and diversified partnership of local and county law enforcement agencies working together to conduct investigations involving the use of computers, cellular phones, and electronic devices during the commission of a crime,” Kenilworth Police Chief John Zimmerman added. “As an original participant of the Prosecutor’s Office’s High Tech Task Force back in 1999, I can say with certainty that assignment to this detail will continue to provide invaluable training for officers countywide.”

The Task Force will also lend its services out to any law enforcement agency operating in Union County – municipal, County, state, or federal.