The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is expanding its reach into cyberspace.
In November, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner hired Cpl. William Crumpton -- a former SLED agent and member of the S.C. Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children's Task Force -- to create and run a new Computer Crimes Division.
"For us, (the division) is making the most of the advancing technologies, and allowing us to fight crime at every level," Tanner said. "It will also help our other local law enforcement agencies as these new services will also be available to them. Having a member of our staff with the level of expertise and experience that Crumpton brings to the table better arms us for investigating and prosecuting computer crimes."
One of the division's first accomplishments was the December launch of OffenderWatch, a sex-offender management and community-notification database.
The website, accessible from the Sheriff's Office home page at www.bcso.net, allows users to enter any address in Beaufort County and receive real-time information about the registered sex offenders living within two miles.
Tanner said launching the website was an important first step for the new division, of which Crumpton is the lone member so far.
"More people are using the Internet today than ever before to communicate and seek information, and for us to have the ability to utilize this technology means we are better connected than ever to our citizens," Tanner said. "The commonality of Internet usage also increases the occurrences of computer related crimes."
The new unit soon will be doing more than launching websites.
Crumpton said he is working on identifying what equipment the Sheriff's Office will need to investigate locally occurring computer crimes.
That equipment will allow investigators to perform forensic examinations of computers seized in criminal cases, enhance video surveillance and photos and retrieve cell phone data, he said.
"The goals are to develop this section so that we will be able to perform these important functions for a myriad of Sheriff's Office criminal investigations," Crumpton said. "This section will allow us to perform services for our investigations that we previously had to request from SLED. This allows for a much faster turnaround on important data and test results."