Proposals for the Metropolitan Police to co-ordinate national e-crime strategy will fail without major new funds, experts warn.
The Met last week suggested its computer crime division could plug the hole between local forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which was created when the National High-Tech Crime Unit was disbanded last April.
But e-crime is not a sufficiently high priority to compete for scarce resources, says Rick Naylor, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association.
‘A central unit will probably not happen,’ he said. ‘Money is going to other parts of the Home Office and the available funding for anything new is non-existent.’
Funding is already an issue at the local level. Computing last week revealed that local forces’ e-crime units face considerable financial pressures, and on average employ fewer than six staff.
Businesses may offer an alternative solution to the problem of finding resources.
‘There is a lot of mileage yet to be done by working with industry and ISPs, and others in this area. We need a shared understanding of what the problems are,’ said Naylor.
Even if sufficient up-front financing is secured, funding problems will continue, says computer security expert Peter Sommer.
‘The government will not expand police budgets and there is no prospect of getting new money for e-crime because the priorities are anti-social behaviour orders and terrorism,’ he said.
An alternative funding model could rely on fees paid by local force chief constables, says Sommer. ‘It really depends on the extent to which individual chief constables can be persuaded to make a contribution,’ he said.
‘Some will go for it and others won’t, which would be a problem: this cannot be a national unit if only five police forces decide they want to contribute,’ he said.
Police forces need to understand the wider benefits of collecting digital evidence, says Sommer.
‘The Met needs to persuade chief constables that digital evidence is very important in a wide range of crimes that do not appear to be high tech,’ he said.
The Met says at present it can only handle a limited number of e-crime incidents.
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