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The UK is to establish three regional policing e-crime hubs as part of efforts to boost the capability of British police to tackle the growing problem of cybercrime.

The new hubs, in Yorkshire and the Humber, the Northwest and in East Midlands, will each get their own three-officer team. Each will work alongside the Metropolitan Police Central e-crime Unit.

The regional roll-out is part of UK government plans to spend £30m over four years to improve the country's ability to investigate and thwart cyber-crime. This is part of a much larger budget of £650m earmarked for the fight against cyber-threats more generally and protecting the UK's national infrastructure from attacks, the majority of which will go to the intelligence agencies, principally GCHQ.

Each of the three regional units will be staffed by a detective sergeant and two detective constables. A period of training means it will take at least a few weeks before these units are up and running. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and West Midlands Police (Birmingham) already had officers on staff who handled cybercrime cases and worked with private-sector forensic experts and expert witnesses, so the new hubs are more about formalising existing capabilities than adding something that previously only existed in London.

In a statement, ACPO lead on e-crime Deputy Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams said:

The government has acknowledged a need to collaborate and provide a structured response to the cyber security of the UK and these three additional policing units are going to play a critical role in our ability to combat the threat.

It is anticipated the hubs will make a significant contribution to the national harm reduction target of £504m. In the first six months of the new funding period alone we have already been able to show a reduction of £140m with our existing capability.

While a training period is required before the hubs are fully functional, they will undoubtedly provide an enhanced ability to investigate this fast growing area of crime and provide an improved internet investigation capability.

James Brokenshire, minister for crime and security, said: "Cyber crime is a threat locally and nationally, and every police force in the country has to deal with its impact on people and businesses in their area."

"As well as leading the fight in their regions, these units mark a significant step forward in developing a national response to cyber crime, which will be driven by the new National Crime Agency," he added.

The regional e-crime hubs were launched at the ACPO e-crime conference in Sheffield on Wednesday. The conference itself was famously discussed during a conference call between the FBI and UK-based cybercops that was leaked by Anonymous last week. ®

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