MALDEN, MO (KFVS) - From missing persons, to homicides, to child pornography, Malden's tri-county cyber crimes investigators say when it comes to crime, it's almost a guarantee electronic evidence is involved.
It's a newly formed unit which is already trying to expand to keep up with the growing work load.
What's more, they're trying some new things. For starters, they are taking on street crime from the inside out.
Also, they are working hard to try to get through to parents about a dangerous world online children can easily fall into.
"It's a whole new game," said Malden Chief of Police, Jarrett Bullock.
The task force has already had a hand in several high profile cases, including the Breeann Rodriguez case, Malden's tanning taping situation, and juvenile sexting in New Madrid County schools.
Lead investigator, Lt. Bradley Burge says in just the last few months he has seen it all .
"It's used daily where before where before it wasn't that important," said Lt. Burge.
He says cyber investigations crack cases, and the computer doesn't lie as everything online can be traced.
"Delete doesn't mean anything," said Lt. Burge.
You just have to have the resources to do it. A small hard drive could contain half a million pictures, and Lt. Lt. Burge says there's no telling what you may find on a cell phone. It's his job to look through piece of potential evidence, and sometimes that could mean thousands of images or hours of video.
"It's very difficult there's nothing automated about researching," said Lt. Burge.
So tri-county serving Dunklin, New Madrid, and Pemiscot County already looks towards expansion.
Malden Police Chief Jarrett Bullock says to serve the community it's a must. They are applying for an $85,000 grant, and hoping for new additional officers.
"With a cyber crimes task force your number one is to protect children," said Chief Bullock.
To do that, Lt. Burge says he wants parents to know what he's seen would scare them.
"It's not so much what they're doing, it's what they're being asked to be done," said Lt. Burge. "It's unreal, webcams are the worst thing you can give a child."
They also feel the future of fighting small town crime may be from the inside. Chief Bullock says they've learned where there's sex crimes there's usually drugs as well.
Prosecutors say Tri County's work has been invaluable. It is a new and growing approach to putting criminals away.
"These days it's essential," said Dunklin County Prosecutor Steve Sokoloff.
You can even get information off an X-Box. Clearly there's virtually nothing you do that can't be traced.
Look for programs soon to educate the public about ways they can help stop cyber crime. Meanwhile, Malden Investigators want to thank Dunklin County prosecutors and sheriff's officer for donating materials and their ongoing support.