This week has finally seen an announcement that the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) is to be funded by the Home Office. However, the largesse amounts to just £3.5 million of new money spread over three years, with the Met putting up a further £3.9 million — but whether the Met’s contribution is “new” or reflects a move of resources from their existing Computer Crime Unit I could not say.
The announcement is of course Good News — because once the PCeU is up and running next Spring, it should plug (to the limited extent that £2 million a year can plug) the “level 2″ eCrime gap that I’ve written about before. viz: that SOCA tackles “serious and organised crime” (level 3), your local police force tackles local villains (level 1), but if criminals operate outside their force’s area — and on the Internet this is more likely than not — yet they don’t meet SOCA’s threshold, then who is there to deal with them?
In particular, the PCeU is envisaged to be the unit that deals with the intelligence packages coming from the City of London Fraud Squad’s new online Fraud Reporting website (once intended to launch in November 2008, now scheduled for Summer 2009).
Of course everyone expects the website to generate more reports of eCrime than could ever be dealt with (even with much more money), so the effectiveness of the PCeU in dealing with eCriminality will depend upon their prioritisation criteria, and how carefully they select the cases they tackle.
Nevertheless, although the news this week shows that the Home Office have finally understood the need to fund more ePolicing, I don’t think that they are thinking about the problem in a sufficiently global context.
A little history lesson might be in order to explain why.