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Regional police hubs launched to combat cybercrime

UK police have set up three new regional "hubs" in a bid to combat the growing threat of cybercrime.13 Feb 2012

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that the new 'e-crime' centres had been established in Yorkshire and the Humber, the Northwest and in the East Midlands. The new units will assist the Police Central E-crime Unit (PceU) which is operated by the Metropolitan Police in London.

The announcement came after the Government pledged £30 million over four years to "improve national capability to investigate and combat cyber crime," ACPO said. Cybercrime now presents a "tier one" risk to national security and is deemed as serious as a threat to the UK as international terrorism, it said.

Janet Williams, the lead officer on e-crime at ACPO, said the new units would make "a significant contribution" to reducing the cost of harm felt through cybercrime.

"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," Williams said.

In 2008 the Government set up PceU after having earlier admitted that the disbanding of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) meant that e-crime was not being adequately addressed.

The NHTCU had been disbanded two years earlier, leaving the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to deal with organised and serious crime. However, that meant that crime that was not carried out on a very large scale was not being tackled by a specialist force. The Government decided to fill the void after accepting ACPO's proposals to set up the PceU.

However, the PceU attracted criticism over a perceived lack of resources. Critics doubted whether it would be able to provide national policing on a £7 million budget. In 2009 Williams said that ACPO was "actively pursuing" the idea of the "brigading of specialist e-crime resources from forces in each region into collaborative e-crime hubs" after accepting that nationally-coordinated action boosting regional expertise was essential to fight the growing problem of e-crime.

"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," Williams said in announcing the three new regional units on Wednesday.

Regional e-crime co-ordinator, East Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman said whilst the internet had brought "significant benefits" to society it had also presented opportunities to "those who have criminal intent".

"We know that increasingly criminal networks are seeking to exploit cyber space for profit and we have a duty as police leaders to respond to protect individuals and communities," Goodman said.

James Brokenshire, the Government Minister for Crime and Security, said the establishment of the new regional units marked "a significant step forward in developing a national response to cyber crime, which will be driven by the new National Crime Agency".