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Cops, Crooks Capitalize on Internet

July 4, 1999

DETROIT (AP) _ The latest in computer technology is being used by criminals and law enforcers alike.

In Detroit early Saturday, undercover police stings nabbed 34 alleged prostitutes who carry laptop computers and depend on the Internet to make dates.

``These were not your garden-variety prostitutes who are crack-addicted with shabby, soiled clothing and pockmarks on their face,″ said Detroit Police Inspector Clinton Kirkwood, who led the raid dubbed Operation LUST _ Lewd Undercover Strike Team.

Most of the suspects arrested Saturday hailed from out of state, such as Texas, California and Hawaii.

For months, police have suspected the prostitutes were using their laptop computers to line up customers, The Detroit News reported Sunday. Last week, investigators learned from a tip that they were using an Internet Web site.

``We looked on the Web site and found out where they were going,″ Kirkwood said. ``That’s how we got so many of them.″

Police seized four vehicles, numerous cellular telephones and pagers, and hundreds of dollars during the stings. Kirkwood said the computers apparently were left in the motel rooms.

Besides helping to catch prostitutes, police across Michigan are turning more and more to computers to help them snag suspected criminals.

In Oakland County, the county Board of Commissioners recently approved funding for a special computer crimes division in the Sheriff’s Department.

That’s good news for Detective Sgt. Joe Duke _ the Oakland County Sheriff Department’s computer wizard and a man of many electronic disguises.

Busting Internet sex offenders will comprise about half of the new unit’s chores, but computers have opened a world of crime that extends through corporate extortion to counterfeiting and on-line con games to telecommunications fraud, Duke told the News.

``Computers can do everything that paper documents can do, except that they do it faster and more efficiently,″ he said.

Duke received some of his computer training from the U.S. Customs Service, plus the International Association of Computer Investigators, a group of federal, state and local police who investigate computer crime.

``The use of personal computers and the Internet increases exponentially every year and the same holds true for the criminal element,″ Duke said. ``What bookkeepers, accountants and bankers have been doing legitimately for years is now being done to further criminal enterprises.″

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