Home Office finally approves UK cybercoppers

E-crime unit gets green light but overlap worries remain

The Home Office has finally approved the creation of a central police e-crime Unit(PCeU), a year after the idea was first proposed.

The cybercrime unit will be based at Scotland Yard and is expected to begin work early next year. The division will provide specialist computer forensics training and coordinate efforts to fight internet fraud across multiple police forces. It will become one of several police agencies in the UK dedicated to fighting cybercrime, but the Home Office is fighting suggestions that this might lead to either infighting or confusion over responsibilities.

The PCeU will be allocated £3.5m from central government and £3.9m from the Metropolitan Police Service over three years. The unit will also seek industry support. Original plans judged the cost of establishing the PCeU at about £5m in total, including £1.3m in start-up funding from the Home Office. The kernel of the division will be 50 officers from the the Met's Hi-tech Crime Unit.

Creation of the unit comes 12 months after the idea - developed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan Police - was submitted to the Home Office, and follows pressure from industry and business in the two years since the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) was borged by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is tasked with tackling high-level international crime and only takes reports of cybercrime indirectly. So business victims of cybercrimewere left to deal with local police forces, which often lacked the resources or expertise to cope adequately. Consumer victims of internet fraud were told to report problems to their bank.

Home officer minister Vernon Coaker acknowledged problems in e-crime reporting and cybercrime investigation at a hearing before a House of Lords Committee back in May.

The solution at that point was to establish a law enforcement arm of the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) and for this division to become the lead agency for e-crime reporting.

"We'd like to see all reports of fraud sent to the NFRC ... which would become a one-stop shop for the reporting of fraud. We don't want a multiplicity of centres. We want to bring it together," Coaker told the House of Lords science and technology committee. "Different pieces of law enforcement do different things but there is a gap, without a shadow of a doubt. We need NFRC but then alongside that a law enforcement capability."

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