Boost police budget to tackle cyber crime, says Reform

23 Aug 17

The government should increase the police budget by £450m each year to crackdown on cyber crime, the Reform think-tank has suggested.

In a report, Bobbies on the net, published today, Reform called for 12,000 IT expert volunteers to be recruited and hundreds of millions of pounds to be ploughed into new technology and training to combat the threat posed by cyber criminals. Reforms says this costs businesses £144bn a year, while individuals lose £10bn to fraud collectively.

The think-tank also recommended that a digital academy be set up to train 1,700 specialist officers and staff to deal with the cyber security threats.

The report said the £450m required for police forces could be raised through accelerating the government’s automation plans for the public sector, something Reform calculates could save Whitehall £2.6bn a year.

Researchers from Reform argue that new technology like body-worn cameras capable of spotting criminals and missing people as well as augmented-reality glasses which can identify evidence at crime scenes could transform policing in the near future

Alexander Hitchcock, report co-author, said: “As people live more of their lives online, they need confidence that the police will help them do this securely. Bobbies urgently need the technology, skills and confidence to patrol an online beat.”

Reform estimates that 47% of today’s crime in the UK is enabled by technology. For example, people are 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery.

Currently, of the 13,500 volunteers working with the police only 40 are cyber security experts.

The think-tank highlighted the crucial role played by the blogger Marcus Hutchins, who discovered a ‘kill switch’ in the recent cyber attack on the NHS, as evidence that volunteers like this could be a great asset for authorities.

Reform believes that the number of expert volunteers needs to reach 12,000 for there to be a sufficient standby force to deal with cybercrime.

Emilie Sundorph, another report author, added: “Police forces have to update their working culture just as much as their technology. Removing out-of-date senior management ranks will help a great deal.”

The think-tank want to see the number of ranks reduced, ideally to just five, to remove unnecessary hierarchies, which it argues impedes agile responses to evolving threats like online crime.

Today’s report also calls police force leaders to have the power to fire underperforming officers to make way for more digitally savvy recruits.

Simon Kempton, lead on digital policing and cyber crime, at the Police Federation of England and Wales, said volunteers have an important role to play but argued that the police are more in need of a strong cadre of trained IT experts.

“Volunteers are a valued part of the police family but by the fact they are volunteers lack some of the flexibility to meet unpredictable demand that a warranted police officer brings,” he explained.

Kempton also claimed the report was wrong to suggest policing hasn’t changed in the light of the growing digital threat over last decade.

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