The Future of Policing: Hi-tech crime is high priority for the police
AS A new generation of criminals increasingly use technology to further their ill-gotten gains, police are having to learn to fight crime on a new frontier.
The explosion in online technology has forced Wiltshire Police, and Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, to commit more funding and resources into establishing a taskforce to tackle the growing online menace of internet fraud, theft and illegal content.
Wiltshire Police’s Hi-tech Crime Unit has gone from handling less than five terabytes, or 1,024 gigabytes, of data a decade ago to 140 terabytes of data last year – equivalent to 14 times the contents of the US Library of Congress.
And while it was once a one-man-band, now it is comprised of a detective sergeant, two detective constables and four specialist police staff who process up to 15 cases a month.
Among the objectives in Chief Constable Patrick Geenty’s Force Delivery Plan is a desire to make it a more productive unit, boosted by an upgraded IT system paid for by a £5.8m funding pot set aside by the PCC and £3.8m allocated by the former Wiltshire Police Authority.
He said: “The demands on the unit are increasing and we need specialist staff to be able to analyse the huge amount of data that we seize and recover from computers.
“For example if we deal with a paedophile and seize their computer, the unit will be required to get the information necessary from it and that could include encrypted data.
“Last year they handled 140 terabytes of data, and when you know that 10 terabytes is a US Library of Congress, that just demonstrates the incredible amount of information we have to process.
“The Commissioner has agreed to invest significantly in our IT and we are also developing regional partnerships with other hi-tech crime units in other forces as well as increasing training for our officers.”
Mr Geenty accepted committing more of his resources to backroom roles to deal with internet crime was perhaps at odds with his plan to increase public visibility and declining officer numbers due to the stringent £16m budget cuts over the next four years.
But he said he would maintain an emphasis on dealing with physical crimes, which caused the most harm.
“We have got to be aware of the increasing demands of internet crime and making sure we have the capability to deal with it.
“In the coming years we will have to increase our resources in that area.
“But the public still expect to be protected and see officers on the streets and our emphasis will be on dealing with crimes that cause the most harm, such as burglary, robbery and violence.”
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