(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 18--Unlike most Multnomah County parole and probation officers, Christi Winters never meets the convicted criminals she monitors.
But Winters knows their online persona from top to bottom. On Monday, the computer forensic examiner for the county's Department of Community Justice showed me around her lab for a story I'll write later this week. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a bit about what she does.
Winters' lab is a windowless, fluorescent-lit room filled with dozens of computers and hundreds of hard drives, cell phones floppy discs, CDs, thumb drives and memory cards in neatly labeled plastic bags.
"All of it is evidence," she says.
As a full-time investigator in Oregon's only community justice computer forensics laboratory, Winters will sift through hundreds of pieces of evidence this year.
She isn't looking for clues in an unsolved crime. She's making sure people who have already been convicted aren't getting into more trouble while they're out on parole or probation.
Unlike the forensics investigators you might see on television shows like "CSI" and "Bones," hers is a virtual crime scene.
"Before we came into this digital age, it was just assumed that parole and probation officers were monitoring physical behavior," she says. "Where are they going, who are they seeing, what are they doing."
Now, much of our lives are lived online.
Winters, who receives her evidence from parole and probation officers who suspect their clients might be back to their criminal ways, has uncovered evidence of everything from child pornography to human trafficking, to violent crimes and drug deals.
She can spot digital evidence of a crime even if the offender has wiped clean their web browsing history and deleted their text messages and photos.
The job can be emotionally taxing, but Winters says it pays off.
"I feel good that I'm helping my community," she says. "And as a member of this community, I feel safer."
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