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The newly established Police Central e-crime Unit is unlikely to get increased UK government funding, according to a response to questions in the House by the Home Secretary on Tuesday. The reply by Jacqui Smith is a sign that the present home secretary is less inclined to invest in the nascent unit than her predecessor David Blunkett.

Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne asked Jacqui Smith about whether "she will make an assessment of the adequacy of the IT resources provided to Metropolitan Police officers in policing fraud". The Home Secretary responded to this question by suggesting the micro-management of resources was down to the Met Police. She also mentioned the £3.5m granted by central government over three years towards the establishment of a long-awaited central e-crime unit, Hansard reports.

The Government allocates funding to police authorities as a whole. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Metropolitan Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police Authority, who are responsible for assessing local needs.

The Government has also specifically allocated £3.5 million to the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) over three years from 2008-09, with the Metropolitan Police Service contributing £3.9 million over the same three year period. One of the main areas of work for the PCeU will be to support the National Fraud Reporting Centre in tackling electronic fraud.

The Home Secretary's statement underlines something that was already fairly clear - the PCeU will have to make its way on a meagre budget.

The PCeU was established around six months ago to fill the gap in policing cybercrime that opened up after the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was amalgamated into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency back in 2006.

The unit, which is based in Scotland Yard, provides computer forensics training and is in charge of coordinating efforts to fight electronic crime across multiple police forces. The division also has a role in investigations, leading an investigation into an alleged network of banking Trojan ne'er-do-wells that resulted in the arrest of nine suspects last month.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of PCeU, appealed for help and volunteers from industry to assist its mission without exceeding its budget during a session at last month's Infosecurity Europe conference.

Earlier to the same conference, former Home Secretary David Blunkett expressed the hope that the PCeU would receive more funding. ®

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