The Detective Division consists of a group of highly trained investigators. The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Detective Division is under the direction of the Division Commander - Captain L. Wyatt who is responsible for the overall operation of the division.
Note: Due to reclassification year to year and ongoing investigations, final numbers are subject to change.
The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Detective Division is under the direction of the Division Commander Captain Lesley Wyatt and the Assistant Division Commander Lieutenant D.R. Swan. They are responsible for the overall operation of the division. The division is broken into two sections, the Criminal Investigation Section led by Lieutenant Nancy Willaford and the Crime Scene Investigation Section which is led by Lieutenant Lauren Carroll.
This Division is staffed with some of the most talented and skilled investigators in North Carolina. Each member of the Detective Division is dedicated, tenacious, and committed to the citizens of New Hanover County.
Criminal Investigation Section
The Criminal Investigation Section of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office is divided into 7 specific units. These investigative units include:
- General Investigations
- White Collar Crimes
- School Resource
- Cold Case/Homicide
- Crimes Against Children
- Domestic Violence
The primary function of the Criminal Investigation Section is to conduct follow-up investigations of crimes. Cases are reviewed by a Detective supervisor and screened for solvability factors. Detectives are then assigned cases based on those solvability factors.
Detectives from specialized units are assigned to investigate crimes on the basis of their expertise. For example, fraud cases are assigned to the White Collar Crimes Unit, child sexual assault cases are assigned to the Crimes Against Children Unit, and so on. The team approach is utilized by the Detective Division and is exemplified by daily briefings and the exchange of criminal intelligence information among the detectives as well as with our partner agencies.
Deputies selected for assignment to the Detective Division are chosen for their knowledge, skills, and the abilities they exhibited in their previous assignments, as well as their desire to do the specific job for which they have applied. Members of the Detective Division receive specialized training to help develop them into capable interviewers and investigators. Some of that training includes but is not limited to;
- Arson Investigation
- Polygraph Operation
- Forensic Child Interviews
- Interview and Interrogation Techniques
- Police Law Institute
- Forensic Statement Analysis
- Field Training Officer
- Criminal Investigator Certification Program
Every case is important to the Detectives investigating these crimes. Their first priority is to take care of the victims and protect the innocent. We want to be the voice for our victims. This is the core value of the Detective Division of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office.
When the Detectives are assigned cases, they make contact with the victims, introduce themselves, conduct a follow-up interview, and discuss the preliminary aspects of the cases. The Detectives then begin to examine and explore solvability factors of their cases and follow any leads that are present. These leads are often in the form of witness information, physical evidence (fingerprints, DNA, etc.), apparent methods of operation (MO), or a strong intuitive feeling of the Detective that is based on their knowledge, training, and experience.
Investigating crimes is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. As the cases are investigated, pieces of the puzzle are revealed that lead to the true picture of the crime in question. That is when Detectives are able to bring about a proper case disposition. This often means that arrests are made and the cases are taken before the courts for adjudication. The Detectives are also intimately involved in the trial process of these cases.
In criminal investigations, the Division works with many other agencies to investigate its cases and to network information. When necessary the Division works with State and Federal Law Enforcement agencies such as State Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol Law Enforcement, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Internal Revenue Services, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. All Detectives work very closely with the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office, the Carousel Center, and the Department of Social Services (DSS). This helps to ensure that the cases come to proper adjudication.
The Detectives are called upon to address the problems of criminal activity in a variety of manners that may include:
- High visibility plain-clothes work
- Undercover operations
- Intelligence gathering
- Search warrants
- Arrest warrants
Crime Scene Investigation Section
Lieutenant Lauren Carroll is the Crime Scene Investigation Section supervisor. She handles the fiscal responsibilities of the section, oversees accreditation standards, and supervises two sergeants under her command.
The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Investigation Section is divided into five units: The Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Forensic Laboratory, Evidence Unit, Cyber Unit, and the Sex Offender Registration Unit. Each of the crime scene detectives has received extensive training in their areas of expertise, to include:
- Blood alcohol analysis
- Firearm serial number restoration
- Chemical processing for blood, fingerprints, and biological material
- Fingerprint comparison and identification
- Processing digital evidence such as cell phones, laptops, computer towers, etc.
- Sex offender violations
- Processing, packaging, and storing evidence
The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office's Forensic Laboratory is managed by Lab Manager Brian Dew. The Forensic Lab an accredited lab under ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and complies with ISO 17025 standards. These high standards ensure that our agency is in compliance with industry best practices. This increases solvability factors for all of our investigations and reduces liability that would result from the mishandling of evidence.
The ANAB conducts on-site inspections to ensure compliance with their standards, which includes interviews with all Lab personnel. Documentation must be provided to the assessors as proof that the standards are being met. In many cases, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office goes above and beyond the required standards. The Forensic Lab offers services in Blood Alcohol Analysis, Latent Print Processing, Latent Print Comparison, and Serial Number Restoration.
The Crime Scene Supervisor is a sergeant who handles the daily operations of Crime Scene Investigations. The Crime Scene Investigators respond to a variety of calls including but not limited to; deaths, robberies, vandalism, breaking and entering, recovery of stolen property, and many others. In addition to processing and collecting evidence on scene, the CSI detectives process evidence to collect further latent or biological evidence. There are several processes that are used to restore serial numbers from firearms when the serial numbers have been destroyed to conceal ownership. Other processes are used to recover fingerprints. The CSI unit has a state-of-the-art processing bay where they are able to process vehicles in a controlled environment.
The second Crime Scene Investigation sergeant oversees the evidence vault, sex offender registration unit, and the cyber investigations unit. This Sergeant ensures that records are kept appropriately, as well as ensuring that each of these high liability areas remains compliant with State laws and accreditation requirements.
Our evidence vault securely houses over 300,000 pieces of evidence for various reasons. Evidence vault technicians process packages, create vouchers, create labels, and catalog all evidence in a systematic manner to ensure its safe storage and easy retrieval. The evidence vault is considered to be one of the highest liability areas any law enforcement agency has. Evidence stored in the vault is kept for varying periods of time and can be kept indefinitely depending on the case. The Sheriff's Office is responsible for storing and cataloging each item in accordance with North Carolina State Crime Lab and ANAB guidelines.
Sex Offender Unit
The sex offender unit oversees the registered sex offenders throughout New Hanover County. Each registered sex offender has certain requirements according to North Carolina State Statutes they are required to comply with. Detectives investigate each complaint they receive and conduct random address verification checks on all registered sex offenders living in New Hanover County. If a sex offender is found to be in violation, he or she will be arrested for failing to comply with state law.
Cyber Investigations Unit
The Cyber-Investigations Unit is staffed by detectives with specialized training in digital evidence processing. The Cyber Unit assists criminal investigations through the forensic extraction of digital evidence from electronic devices and investigates the exploitation of children on the internet. With the technological age growing and changing at an alarming rate these investigators must stay one step ahead of the criminals by attending extensive training programs and networking meetings. This unit works closely with the FBI and surrounding agencies to assist in cyber investigations and to discuss digital trends.
While it is difficult to truly reflect in words the energy that our detectives put into their assignments, their accomplishments speak for themselves. If you have a tip on a crime or active investigation, please go to the Submit a Crime Tip page. The Detective Division can be reached at: 910-798-4260.
Through the diligent efforts of the personnel assigned to this Division we have attacked issues the members of our community have shared with us as being detrimental to the quality of life in New Hanover County.
While it is difficult to truly reflect in words the energy that our detectives put into their assignments, their accomplishments tend to speak for themselves.