Alexander Hitchcock: Digital technology is smarter policing

ONLINE crime has real consequences.

This message, delivered by Chief Constable Dee Collins of West Yorkshire Police earlier this summer, has now been reiterated by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Both point to the seriousness of online threats. Chief Constable Collins warns: “We are all potential targets.”

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Almost 50 per cent of crime committed using technology, such as the internet.

People are 20 times more likely
to be a victim of fraud than robbery.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, identity fraud has risen 20 per cent in the
last year, according to Cifas, the UK’s largest cross-sector fraud sharing organisation.

Cyber-attacks threaten key
 institutions such as the NHS, 
with a recent attack forcing operations 
to be postponed at York Teaching Hospital.

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Cybercrime reaches beyond city centres like Leeds and Sheffield, to any home or business with a computer.

This presents further challenges for forces covering large, rural areas.

It requires forces across Yorkshire to rethink the way they operate, following HMIC’s assessment that North Yorkshire’s ability to tackle cybercrime is a “weakness”.

Forces can work with people in Yorkshire to prevent much of this new crime.

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According to GCHQ, 80 per cent of cybercrime could be prevented through simple procedures such as using strong passwords. (Readers using ‘123456’ as a password should think about changing it).

In Sussex, police identify vulnerable residents and provide tailored information, such as videos, to provide education for preventing fraud.

Yorkshire forces communicate well with residents over Twitter, but better technology is needed to collect evidence.

West Midlands Police uses a portal through which people can share information without travelling to a station.

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Durham uses surveillance software to collect social-media information on suspects, updating case files automatically to allow police to prioritise other tasks.

At digital crime scenes, cops in the Netherlands use augmented-reality glasses to identify critical pieces of evidence.

Technology can also keep bobbies on the beat.

Rural areas can be half an hour’s 
drive or more from Yorkshire police stations.

Providing officers with the technology to collect and share information without returning to stations would be a great benefit.

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Smartphones should take fingerprints, and body-worn cameras can take statements.

Yorkshire forces should be motivated to lead the way on this.

Police need the skills to meet demand.

Apps can be used on smartphones to provide officers with information on the newest technological threats, following information-sharing apps in the US military.

Durham has built a ‘cyber bungalow’ to train officers to investigate digital crime scenes.

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Some officers need specialist
cyber skills to meet more complex demand.

A digital academy, with outposts in large cities such as Leeds, should be 
set up to train officers to develop the skills to crack encrypted software, for example.

Secondments from police forces to IT companies in Sheffield or York can improve officers’ working knowledge of the threats facing these organisations and provide them with the experience and knowledge to meet cyber problems in new ways.

Crime is changing, and Yorkshire forces should respond. Making these reforms are necessary to meet 
the very real consequences of online crime.

Alexander Hitchcock is a senior Researcher at policy think-tank Reform. Its report, Bobbies on the net, is available at