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Prosecuting Computer Crime in North Carolina: Assessing the Needs of the State's District Attorneys

NCJ Number
Douglas L. Yearwood; Richard Hayes
Date Published
May 2003
30 pages
This study examined computer crime in North Carolina from a judicial perspective, specifically from the district attorney’s point of view to determine the specific needs of the district attorneys relative to computer crime.
During the last decade, the issue of cyber crime or computer-related crime has slowly evolved. This evolution has fueled a perceived increase in the number of these types of crime, through venues such as high profile cases and Internet scams, thereby, providing cyber crime or computer-related crime with considerably more attention. In examining computer crime in North Carolina from a judicial perspective, this exploratory study attempted to ascertain the specific needs of the district attorneys relative to computer-related crimes. It attempts to answer program and policy relevant questions which include: (1) how prepared are the State’s prosecutors for handling these cases; (2) what types of equipment, training, and personnel needs do these offices have; and (3) what do the district attorneys see in the future for these crimes? The study attempted to find a better indication of the nature and extent of cyber crime in North Carolina. A 4-part, 26-item questionnaire was designed and completed by 20, out of 39, prosecuting attorneys’ offices. Highlighted results include: (1) eight district attorneys noted that their offices did have individuals who possessed knowledge of computer crimes; (2) the majority of the computer crime cases were locally occurring events; (3) the most frequently reported type of computer crime was fraud, followed by the use of a computer to lure children and identity theft; (4) the majority of prosecutors reported a lack of adequate computer equipment and lagging technological capabilities; (5) over half the offices described their greatest personnel need as more staff training; and (6) 75 percent thought the current general statutes clearly delineated jurisdictional boundaries. In an attempt to alleviate the identified barriers to prosecution computer-related crimes, four recommendations are presented and included: (1) basic to advanced levels of in-State computer crime training should become available; (2) efforts should be directed at equipment procurement and computer upgrades; (3) a legislative study commission should be empaneled to investigate the issue of computer crime as it intersects e-commerce and e-government operations; and (4) the existing case management information system should be improved and expanded for the extraction of relevant computer crime data. Glossary