Middlesex County DA launches Internet crimes unit

D. Craig MacCormack

Local police chiefs yesterday said the Middlesex district attorney's new Internet crimes unit will help law enforcement officials make great strides in tracking down online predators.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone announced the new unit yesterday, saying the team will include prosecutors and investigators who will target Web-surfing criminals.

``The Internet is an ever-growing and increasingly important part of all of our lives,'' said Leone in a press release yesterday. ``But as it grows, it unfortunately also becomes the weapon of choice for predators and others seeking to exploit children, the elderly and other victims.

``As the Internet evolves, so must our efforts to protect people and prosecute crimes that are committed online,'' he said.

The team includes a coordinating assistant district attorney, other lawyers, state police, and civilian forensic specialists.

Leone named Assistant District Attorney Dana Lecesse as coordinator and lead prosecutor for the enforcement unit, and state Trooper Matt Murphy as the main contact in that department. Trooper Katrina Mazzie will also be responsible for investigations and enforcement matters relating to the program.

The group will investigate and prosecute cases involving the use of computers to commit crimes and store evidence, including those who target children, the elderly and other victims. It also will address financial and other related cyber crimes, such as identity theft.

The program will assist local police departments in county-wide training sessions and support the office's pre-existing school and community-based prevention and intervention programs.

Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl sees the new effort as ``a terrific asset to local police,'' saying his officers ``dabble'' in solving Internet crimes but the training is too expensive to do the job thoroughly.

``This is something that helps you put a case together,'' said Carl. ``It gives a much more global perspective to things than we're able to do as one department.''

Marlborough Police Chief Mark Leonard agreed that budget considerations are often an impediment to being able to do a more thorough job with Internet crimes.

``The more we know about the things that are going on in our area, the better chance we have to figure out who's doing them,'' said Leonard. ``We don't have the resources to do a lot of our own investigation, especially when you're talking about things that originated not only outside the area, but in some cases outside the country.''

Milford Police Chief Tom O'Loughlin said he expects leaders of Worcester County police departments to discuss a similar idea when they meet this week with Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

``This is the best way to handle these kinds of offenses,'' said O'Loughlin. ``These are situations that go not only across county lines, but all over the world, especially when you're talking about fraud and that sort of thing.''

Craig MacCormack of The MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News can be reached at 508-626-4429 or cmaccorm@cnc.com.