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“Traditional crime is falling”. While that statement may be true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Modern crime investigation and prevention techniques, as well as simple economics, have resulted in sharp reductions in many acquisitive crimes types over the period of my service. We now have a new challenge in offences involving the internet which are changing the face of crime in the UK. Harassment, child sexual exploitation, terrorism and fraud are all increasingly being committed by suspects with a varying degree of computing expertise. This is before we have considered the brand new type of cyber-dependant crimes such as hacking, denial of service attacks and virus proliferation. The Crime Survey for England and Wales has highlighted this area for the first time and estimates that the level of crime in the UK is far higher than previously stated. This is because it has started to recognise and ask questions about fraud and cyber crime. This is a welcome (if overdue) development and gives us a much clearer picture of the true levels of crime in the UK.

As I reach the end of my policing career, I leave a service which is well versed in the prevention of the more visible crimes, but which needs to continue to evolve to meet the threat posed by cyber crime, especially online fraud. Frauds have been reported to Action Fraud since 2012, and all cases are assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau in the City of London to identify patterns and networks. We receive about 250,000 reports of crime every year but we think that the true level is at least 12 times that. Although we would like to disseminate more, we know that the 70,000 we do send to forces to resolve are difficult enough for them to deal with. As a result, detecting our way out of the problem is simply impossible – prevention must be at the core of everything we do as a service.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has identified a growing trend for fraudsters and cyber-criminals to be based overseas. There is evidence to show they are using increasingly complex money laundering methods to disperse money belonging to a victim in minutes. That is why my force, which leads on economic crime, is working with the banking sector, the National Crime Agency and the Home Office to develop a joint taskforce looking at how crime can be prevented and illicit payments stopped. We already share information on money laundering cases with the banks in order to prevent crime and to identify potential criminal networks, and are keen to do more with our partners in Europe as well.

However, the prevention of these crimes cannot simply rest with government, banks and other bodies which make up “the centre”. The efforts of officers and staff who deal with businesses and members of the public are crucial to the fight. We believe that the vast majority of fraud and cyber crimes are preventable, if people have the right information. Every officer in this country can give useful advice to members of their community on how to prevent a burglary; can the same be said with regards to more modern offending?

To aid in this, we have developed a prevention hub which shares information with forces so they can understand the issues and pass information onto the people they serve. How many of the elderly in each force area know that a fraudster can “spoof” a number – so that it appears they are calling from the victim’s bank? How many small business managers know that their phone systems can be hacked into and premium rate calls made overseas (or that this is easy to prevent?) And how many people can spot the clues which could point to their PC being infected by a banking Trojan virus? Although many of these issues are new to some people, none of them are particularly complicated. I believe that all parts of the UK public sector and all members of the British policing family have a role to play in keeping our public safe.

Adrian Leppard is the Commissioner of the City of London Police and holds the NPCC economic crime portfolio. He will retire in December after 32 years service.