Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Police struggle with 'cybercrime'

The Independent is reporting this morning that a new report from the Metropolitan Police says the police are struggling to cope with the rise of cybercrime (which they also call e-crime). Firstly let me get my usual irritation about e-things out of the way. There is no such thing as 'e-crime'. It is just that criminals now have access to these not-so-newfangled-anymore tools called computers. The police, however, have nothing like the resources or personnel with the experience or skills required to tackle the numbers of crimes that now incorporate a computing element.

That constitutes a failure of police management and of government. If police management were not so blindly focussed on artificial simplistic targets, then maybe, as the Met report concludes, "The ability of law enforcement to investigate all types of e-crime locally and globally" would "be 'mainstreamed' as an integral part of every investigation, whether it be specialist, or murder, robbery, extortion demands, identity theft or fraud." Maybe too, when the local vandals engage in another round of boredom, drugs or alcohol induced criminal damage, we could get a real police officer to investigate and catch the perpetrators, rather than having to phone a supposedly local number, which diverts to a call centre where the operator doesn't even know the location of your town and is only empowered to provide you with a crime number and no more. (Interestingly enough when the then Mayor's wall was damaged some time ago the police were round doing door to door inquiries asking if we had seen anything).

If the government weren't so intent on headline-reflex legislating and pouring billions of pounds into ill thought out information systems to 'solve' everything from NHS waiting lists to immigration and terrorism, then maybe a fraction of those wasted resources could be diverted to support the difficult jobs that the police and intelligence services have to do, with, of course, the appropriate checks and balances. The real work of policing and intelligence, though, is difficult and complex, often tedious, time consuming and dangerous. Sadly for the people involved in such jobs this process has the rather serious political drawback of not being constantly, spectacularly and superficially newsworthy. So whilst the politicians chase headlines and police management chase targets, those who have to do the real work just do their best.

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