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Expiring Vehicle License Fee Threatens Santa Clara County High Tech Task Force

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(AP)

SAN JOSE (KCBS) – A high tech crime task force in San Jose specializing in identity theft and intellectual property investigations might lose its $2 million funding if the California vehicle license fee expires, authorities said.

A 10-member task force, the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), handles complex corporate espionage cases that both city police departments and federal authorities do not have the time to investigate, said FBI Special Agent Thomas Ravenelle.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

“There’s times where, in my cyber crimes squads, we don’t have the resources to address something or it’s not falling exactly within the priorities that we’re mandated to work. So we’ll kick it to them,” he said.

When REACT was lauded for solving the $37 million theft of a microchip design, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that case sent a strong message in an area with so many chip companies.

“One of the ways that we prevent crime is by deterring it,” he said.

Rosen’s office coordinates REACT, a partnership between 17 law enforcement agencies that dates to 1997.

He and Ravenelle agreed that REACT’s greatest impact has been in combating identity theft, particularly where thieves from out of the area use credit card skimmers to capture sensitive personal information.

“They put a skimming machine on a gas pump somewhere and take credit card information. Local police don’t have the time to work that sort of thing,” said Ravenelle.

More than 1 million Californians were the victims of identity theft in 2009, according to the California Office of Privacy Protection.

“Almost everybody in our society either has been a victim of identity theft or knows someone who’s a victim of identity theft. These are the kinds of crimes that REACT investigates,” Rosen said.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been stymied by efforts to call a special election to ask voters to extend several taxes, including the California vehicle license fee set to expire on June 30.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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