Thomson Reuters and the International Association of Chiefs of Police today announced that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cyber Division has been recognized with their annual Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation.

In 2015 alone, HSI seized nearly six petabytes of data in the course of criminal investigations, with more than half of this data coming from computer-facilitated child sexual exploitation investigations. In lay terms, it would take more than 220,000 DVDs to hold one petabyte. Armed with this large volume of data, law enforcement has been able to identify and prosecute many perpetrators, yet identifying the victims of these crimes has been another challenge.

In 2012, HSI began the implementation of Project VIC, an effort that combined law enforcement and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners to leverage new technology and methods to confront child sexual exploitation and identify the victims of these crimes. Coupled with its Child Exploitation Investigations Unit, Victim Identification Program, HSI – along with other law enforcement agencies and NGO partners – has identified and rescued more than 1,500 victims of computer-facilitated child exploitation crimes from Jan. 1, 2015, through May 17, 2016.

According to IACP President Chief Terrence M. Cunningham, it was for its innovative and collaborative effort to confront child exploitation – and aid victims – that HSI was honored with its award.

 “‘Protect and serve’ is the motto of many law enforcement agencies, and I am proud of the Homeland Security Investigations Cyber Division in their work to do just that for the victims of child sexual exploitation,” said Cunningham, who also serves as chief of the Wellesley Police Department, Wellesley, Mass. “The time, dedication and ingenuity of the HSI investigators in this case is impressive.”

The first runner-up is the Toronto Police Service, Financial Crimes Unit for its investigation into a Nigerian fraud and money laundering ring with operations in Canada. Officers with the unit ran a year-long investigation of a group known as “The Black Axe,” which was responsible for mass marketing fraud and money laundering operations. The investigation, dubbed “Project Murphy,” found an estimated 200 members of the criminal organization operating in Canada, and the subsequent arrest of its bookkeeper discovered that the group had laundered more than $500 million in an 11-month period. Project Murphy led to the creation of a template other agencies could use to investigate this criminal organization and a greater understanding of how it uses illicit financial practices worldwide.

The second runner-up, the New Zealand Police, has been recognized for its investigation into anonymous blackmail letters sent to the heads of a food company and an agriculture lobby group in New Zealand that contained a plastic bag with poisoned baby formula – a quantity that if ingested would have been fatal to 33 newborn infants. The author of the letters threatened to release more contaminated formula into the market unless the firms halted the use of a specific chemical by March 2015. An in-depth investigation was launched which leveraged technology to trace the origin of the contaminant and identify and screen more than 2,600 persons of interest. In the end, a suspect was identified who later plead guilty.

“This year, we are pleased to honor three law enforcement agencies from around the globe that demonstrate their commitment to serve and protect not just one, but countless innocent and potential victims in the course of their work,” said Dan DeSimone, senior director of Investigative Resources for Thomson Reuters. “On behalf of Thomson Reuters and the IACP, it is my pleasure to recognize Homeland Security Investigations, the Toronto Police Service and the New Zealand Police for not only their dedication and service, but also their commitment to taking on the challenge of these remarkably complex cases. Congratulations.”

The IACP/Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation is given to a law enforcement agency, law enforcement unit, task force or inter-agency task force in recognition of exceptional innovation and excellence in the area of criminal investigations. Judging focuses on contributions to the advancement of the art or science of criminal investigations and innovations in the development or enhancement of investigative techniques. The award is sponsored by Thomson Reuters, whose public records solutions include CLEAR ® – a powerful investigative suite that law enforcement can use to research people and organizations suspected of criminal activity.

To learn more about IACP, visit www.theiacp.org.