Geek Detective in Hawaii Hangs Ten on the Web to Fight Crime

Hawaii may be a sort of paradise, but its police are just as wary of adopting social media as any other place.
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The volcanic islands of Hawaii are unique in that they're so isolated from any other land mass that any early flora or fauna that existed there is said to have been deposited by the three Ws: wind, waves and wings. Those same waves brought Polynesians to the islands more than two thousand years ago who promptly invented surfing. Then in the late Nineties came along a Hawaiian detective -- surfing a totally different set of Ws on the World Wide Web -- to find a missing person.

Hawaii Five-Oh Goes 2.0

"In 1998 I helped one of my partners locate a teenage runaway who flew to Florida from Hawaii," said Chris Duque, now retired. "We didn't know where she ran to until I did forensics on her computer. After going online into chat rooms, NewsGroups, and other forums we were able to get her back home within a week."

Chris Duque (pronounced Due-Kay) is a 30-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department (HPD). He started out in uniformed patrol but went on to the Criminal Investigation Division in 1985 and in 1990 he was assigned to the White Collar Crime Unit where he says that he specialized in cyber crime investigations and computer forensics. He was one of Hawaii's leading computer and Internet crimes investigators, having worked with every law enforcement agency in the state. Now he's a consultant who also does talks to children and parents in schools on cyber safety.

Geek Cop

Duque developed a sense of good versus evil in a way that is probably very different from most cops, by playing Dungeons And Dragons. That's also where his interest in computers came out when he started developing programs to generate dice rolls.

"I wrote a program that would randomly make the dice roll out and I would cross reference them with a chart," he said. The dice generator would then tell him how many hit points his character would take. If not for his calling into police work, Duque may have ended up as a video game coder.

Likening himself to his favorite superhero, Batman, Duque is a weight lifter and fitness instructor who also spends his time toning his mind as well as his body to get into the thinking of criminals who seek to prey upon children through cyber bullying and stalking online.

Duque uses social media to make connections just like any other professional but he's very attuned to the darker side of it. For example, a new social media website called ChatRoulette is gaining in popularity. It allows users to take part in one-to-one video chats with anyone all over the world. The roulette part is that the website scrolls through videos of users online, ready to video chat, unrestricted and totally at random. This means you can (and probably will at some point) find yourself face-to-face with someone with obscene intentions. The site is becoming notorious for the sexual nature of some users.

"Pretty sure within 10 to 20 clicks depending upon the time of day, you're gonna see some obscene material," Duque said in a online report.

It's definitely one social network that Duque suggests minors should not be exposed to unsupervised.

But more than this type of random interaction, Duque now trains parents and children on the dangers of cyber bullying, an increasingly common phenomenon and one that has grabbed headlines recently.

"When we were growing up, and we were doing this stuff these kids are doing now, the impact was local, because we didn't have the technology to make it global, and permanent," Duque said in a recent interview. "I do something stupid in Kalihi when I was growing up, it usually stays within Kalihi. Now what Chris did in Kalihi is global within a couple of seconds."

He just returned home from presenting at the SMILE Conference held in Washington DC. It gathered law enforcement from all over the world to talk about the use of social media in police work. The conference was encouraging to him because it gave law enforcement professionals a chance to see what others were doing with current technology. While there, he presented on using social media in proactive investigations. He was tight lipped on the contents of his presentation though.

"That was the reason my presentation wasn't streamed," he said. "I can say that officers should make use of one of the Internet's most valued feature, anonymity. You can be anyone you want to be, real or fictitious. But understand, the bad guys can do the same. Be cautious of TMI, Too Much Information, and counter-surveillance."

Mahalo For Not Over Sharing

Hawaii may be a sort of paradise, but its police are just as wary of adopting social media as any other place - maybe even more so, according to Duque - but that might be changing and probably because of his efforts.

"Here in Hawaii, they are still apprehensive and over cautious (IMO)," he said. "But there are a few who are willing to push the envelope."

He said that in Hawaii people aren't separated by six degrees, but one or two, which makes things easier, harder and more interesting all at the same time.

"Everyone knows each other pretty much and may even somehow be related, which results in some very interesting interactions. For example, I raided a cockfight and inadvertently arrested my aunt," he said with an LOL on email.

In Duque's opinion at the rank and file level agencies work better in Hawaii because of that closeness.

"It's when it goes up the food chain that 'issues' and politics arise," he said.

Social media in law enforcement is at its very beginnings and I pressed Duque, an early adopter, to tell me what he saw in the future of Law Enforcement 2.0.

"Hard to say. What I'd like to see is social media as the primary tool to bring law enforcement and the community closer," he said. "Also, I'd like to educate some younger officers on 'netiquette', which I feel is lacking."

Fighting Crime The Aloha Way

Lest you still think Chris Duque is lacking either geek creds or authority on police work in America's fiftieth state, Duque has played a couple of unexpected roles besides cyber cop. He once played a bad guy on Magnum P.I. and he's fulfilled one of every geek kid's fantasies.

"Did you know I'm also a comic book character?" Duque said when I asked about his various roles. "I helped a writer with some research material and he wrote me in as a character."

It doesn't get any better that that, does it?

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