Tennessee Agency Creates Identity Crimes Unit

It consists of employees from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Office of Homeland Security, and the Driver Services Division. Federal agencies are supporting investigations with possible federal violations.

Bill Gibbons, commissioner of Tennessee's Department of Safety and Homeland Security, is forming a new investigative unit focused on identity theft and related crimes. He said Aug. 28 the new Identity Crimes Unit is comprised of employees from three divisions of his department -- the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security, and Driver Services Division.

U.S. Secret Service Nashville and Memphis field offices; Homeland Security Investigations under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and the FBI Memphis division will support the unit on investigations with possible federal violations.

Gibbons said the unit grew out of a departmental review requested by Gov. Bill Haslam. "As part of the top-to-bottom review, we focused on the needs of our citizens and the law enforcement community, as well as ways we could maximize the effective use of the resources we have," Gibbons said.

According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a database used by law enforcement to collect consumer complaints, in 2011 there were 4,275 complaints of ID theft filed in Tennessee, compared to 4,175 filed in 2010. Nationwide in 2011 there were 279,156 complaints filed, compared to 258,854 filed in 2010.

"Identity crimes are a growing part of our crime problem, and many local law enforcement agencies struggle with investigating these cases. In addition, the Highway Patrol has specific authority under state law to investigate identity theft, there are obvious homeland security concerns with such crimes, and many identity crimes relate to driver licenses. So we see it as a great opportunity for all three divisions of the department—our state troopers, homeland security agents, and driver license examiners—to work together as a team," Gibbons said.

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