On 12 February the UK police announced:
Police’s new £30m e-crime hubs ready to go live
Three regional online crime units to be set up in Yorkshire and the Humber, the north-west and east Midlands. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has announced three new police hubs to tackle web crime are set to launch.
As I was dealing with another online scam I was rather interested to find out more about this. Using Google I typed in “e-crime hub”, found an article in a national newspaper that indicated that one of the three crime hubs was based at a neighbouring police force and decided to give them a ring with my findings about a particular scam I was dealing with.
The lady on the police switchboard was very polite and helpful, but had never heard about this e-crime hub thing. She rang various departments, but no one knew anything about it. The person who was apparently heading it up could not be found on their computer system and was clearly not working there. (Or had he assumed an under cover identity?)
The only option they gave me was to contact the high tech crime unit. She duly put me through. The police officer who answered the call again did not know anything about the e-crime hub, but was happy to answer my call and promised someone would call back. I left my details and that was that. One more crime statistic!
It makes you wonder whether the police is really interested in solving crimes or whether they are just paying lip service to popular headline grabbing issues and feeding the statistics. They appear completely lost when a case requires something slightly more complicated than the use of a word processor. (Or are they still using type writers?)
When we contacted them in the past we were always send packing as internet crime crosses borders and they haven’t got budget for that, the money involved per case is too small and therefore hasn’t enough PR value and it appeared too complex anyway for them to get their heads around it.
The police might not be interested in such “small value” cases, but when you realise that these scams are sent to hundreds of thousands of people it becomes a huge sum. €30 times a few (hundred)thousand cases adds up rather quickly to enormous sums. The SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency) estimates that people in the UK alone lose about £3.5 billion every year to mass market fraud and had registered 27,000 fraud cases in the first quarter of 2010 alone. These numbers will only have gone up…
It’s a sad indictment that the police these days are more interested in Public Relations, statistics and getting stories out in the press, rather than actually taking up and solving cases.
It gives off completely wrong signals to criminals. If you’re clever, know how the internet works and are international, you can get away with the biggest scams without being caught. But it’s at least a job opportunity for the criminally inclined!