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COMPUTER FORENSIC LAB SET TO DEBUT IN MAY

A state-of-the-art computer forensic laboratory will debut in May in Erie County's new Public Safety Center, the FBI announced Friday.

The computer lab, which will occupy 8,000 square feet of space on the facility's fourth floor, will process computer-related evidence for a variety of crimes, including terrorism, child pornography, white-collar crime and identity theft, FBI officials said.

"The FBI is providing $500,000 in funding to build out the Public Safety Building to meet specifications (for the laboratory)," said Maureen Dempsey, FBI spokeswoman. "There's definitely a need for it."

Dempsey said the FBI will also provide about $1 million in equipment and two full-time FBI agents. The agency also will offer FBI-certification training for law enforcement personnel.

Dempsey said collaborative efforts between the FBI and local law enforcement have led to results in several recent high-profile cases, including the Chicago slayings of the mother and husband of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow and the "BTK" serial murder case in Wichita, Kan.

The $33 million Public Safety Center is in downtown Buffalo, between Michigan Avenue and Elm Street. At one time, it appeared the new facility would be a victim of the county's budget crisis, but county officials this week announced a plan to open it

Besides Buffalo, other Regional Computer Forensic laboratories are scheduled to open by early summer in Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, and by the end of the year, in Dayton, Ohio, and Philadelphia.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com