Digital Forensics
Expanded Digital Forensic Lab Inaugurated in West Virginia

Expanded Digital Forensic Lab Inaugurated in West Virginia

A ribbon-cutting ceremony of a newly expanded West Virginia State Police Digital Forensic Laboratory held on 24 October, 2022, located at the Marshall University Forensic Science Centre’s annex. 

With 800 additional square feet of space, the now 1,400-square-foot lab accommodates more space for Marshall students to complete internships with the state police.

Officials say this was made possible through Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), which brings operatives together with law enforcement to rescue victims of sex trafficking.

Marshall has a well-established relationship with OUR. In the 2017-2018 academic year, Marshall University students teamed up with OUR for a project that resulted in the rescue of nearly 40 child trafficking victims and the arrest of 10 suspected traffickers. 

It involved trafficking taking place in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.

Marshall University President Brad Smith, “Marshall students, today, in partnership with West Virginia State Police have helped rescue 40 children and help arrest suspected human traffickers. 11 in total so far”.

John Sammons, associate director of Marshall’s Institute for Cyber Security said, “This is an incredible opportunity because very few universities have a working digital forensics lab on campus.”  

He continued, “We can’t thank OUR enough. They has made such an impact on this horrific problem afflicting not only West Virginia, but communities around the world. This incredibly generous donation is just one way they are making a difference.” 

He added, “This gift has the added benefit of not only impacting investigative work, but also the training and education of the people battling this problem into the future.”

The West Virginia State Police Digital Forensics Unit (DFU) at Marshall University’s Forensic Science Center started operations in June 2006 due to exponential growth in computer-facilitated crime, especially child sexual exploitation. 

The lab was fully funded by grants obtained by Dr. Terry Fenger, former director of the Marshall University Forensic Science Centre, and by grants awarded from ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) to the state police.

Equipped with the industry’s standard and most effective forensic tools and software and under the leadership of Corporal. Robert J. Boggs, the DFU at Marshall has logged well over 1,000 cases, including thousands of digital media items, for full forensic analysis since 2006.

Forty percent of the cases submitted to the lab are child related, and 99% involve felony investigations including murder, drug, financial, fraud, and other crimes.

Boggs said, “Operation Underground Railroad is awesome. Most citizens have no idea or don’t realize just how many people are involved with CSAM (child sexual abuse materials). Children are the very foundation of everything we are. It all starts with them. Operating an effective digital forensics lab is very expensive. Operation Underground Railroad understands this and has supported our efforts generously. I thank them for their support and understanding about the many facets of crimes against children, internationally and here at home.”

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