The St. Joseph County Cyber Crimes Unit swore in six student-investigators at it’s new space at the University of Notre Dame Friday.
The unit is made up of one director, three officers and the six students. Their work is to track digital evidence, investigate witness, victim or suspect statements and help to serve search warrants.
Christina Casino is one of the student-investigators. She’s a senior at Notre Dame and has been with the unit since the summer following her sophomore year.
“It changes your mindset when you’re in this room, how you do your work and what responsibilities you have. It’s pretty crazy ‘cause you would never imagine that a college student would have this kind of responsibility.”
But these students do have a huge responsibility. They’re solving real crimes and are gather evidence to aid real investigations.
“Their work is anything is everything that we do,” said Cyber Crimes director Mitch Kajzer. “Any type of investigation that we work on. They will have some part in the investigation. That can range from anything from homicides to frauds, to burglaries, so any type of police investigation.”
St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Cotter said it’s above all a mentoring experience for them. “They don’t do anything without being with another sworn law enforcement officer, not another student who is a sworn law enforcement officer, without someone else who has gone through the academy. But I think that combining of the two will ensure that if there’s a question about what they should do, they’re going to know the answer.”
Cotter said the student-investigators in the unit are digital natives that do good work for law enforcement and the community.
“[With] Technology the way it is today, it either is or it isn’t. They’re able to gather that hard evidence that we were never able to get before. This is really an exciting time in law enforcement.”
The program has expanded since is started three years ago from one to six student-investigators. Cotter said he hopes with the new space, better technology and robust partnership with Notre Dame, the program will grow further.