South Carolina has opened the nation's first statewide crime center dedicated to computer and other high tech crimes. The Columbia-based Computer Crime Center will handle the forensic examination of all evidence collected during the investigation of a computer crime.

Investigations conducted by the center will include Internet fraud, child exploitation, computer intrusions, child pornography, denial-of-service and various telecommunications crimes.

Personnel from the FBI and the Secret Service will work at the center, affording local law enforcement investigators the federal subpoena power, federal prosecution of cases and the expertise of other agents with electronic investigation experience. On-site federal agents also will ensure that cases do not have to stop in order for a referral to be made in federal court.

"Our law enforcement is top-notch at catching traditional criminals, but the atmosphere has changed, and the worst elements of society are now using computers and other high tech equipment to perpetrate crimes," Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), who secured $5.6 million in federal funding for the center, said. "We must confront the high-tech criminals with new tools of our own, new working relationships, and a new way of doing business. These criminals know how to play the game, and it's a job-and-a-half to stay ahead of them."

In addition to the FBI and the Secret Service, the center will house the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the U.S. Customs Service, and the Postal Service. The center also will encourage cooperation between high-tech firms, utilities, financial institutions, and law enforcement.

The FBI will have one computer forensics examiner working within the center. The FBI examiner will provide assistance in the search and seizure of computer evidence as well as forensic examinations and technical support.

All tools and resources of the center will be made available to the sheriffs and police chiefs in South Carolina. Local law enforcement also will have access to an evidence recovery facility and the center's team of investigators to provide them digital evidence recovery tools.

The FBI is working to establish similar facilities in Los Angeles and Minneapolis.