Tennessee's safety department is creating a new unit to investigate identity theft crimes that local law enforcement agencies don't have the time and resources to effectively investigate. The 14-person unit will include personnel from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security.

The unit will also work with U.S. Secret Service in Memphis and Nashville as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The idea for the new unit came about Tennesseeafter a top to bottom review of state operations and needs. It was apparent to officials that relief available to victims of identity theft and financial fraud in the state was not at the level it needed to be.

The ITRC applauds the creation of units such as this one. As Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons aptly put, "Very few police departments have investigators that have the expertise to investigate these types of crimes. When you go to local law enforcement agencies across the state, they will pretty much tell you that identity crime is one of the toughest types of crimes for them to investigate."

Gibbons went on to explain that Tennessee law gives the Tennessee Highway Patrol authority to investigate identity theft, though their primary duties are primarily relegated to traffic enforcement. Often the most difficult part of solving these crimes is the fact that they transcend traditional jurisdictional boundaries. In many cases these crimes originate out of state or even sometimes overseas, which is why they are partnering with federal agencies that have wider areas of jurisdiction.

According to Gibbons, they won't be handling all identity theft cases in the state. Instead, they plan to look at each case individually for certain factors such financial loss, connections to homeland security issues and violation of a state felony theft law, to decide whether to take the case.

The department has also posted a resource kit online for identity theft victims. It can be found at www.tn.gov/safety .

"Tennessee's New Identity Theft Unit" was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC_Blog.

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