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Civilian volunteers with specialist knowledge are to be drafted in to help police fight cyber crime under the latest government reforms to be announced by home secretary Theresa May.
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Police forces have come under fire for lacking the necessary skills to deal with cyber crime at a local level, and have sought to ramp up capability to respond to cyber crime reports and collect evidence.
Police officials have admitted forces face a steep learning curve in getting to grips with cyber crime. There are several initiatives underway geared to growing capability and capacity, it will take years to build the necessary capacity.
In October 2015, the Office of National Statistics revealed there were 625,000 cyber crime offences a month on average in England and Wales between May and August 2015, which security experts believe is just a fraction of the actual number.
The government plans to expand the role of volunteers by approving measures aimed at giving more powers to volunteers with cyber, financial and other specialist knowledge.
The home secretary said the measures were aimed at helping forces to bring in skills and free up officers to focus on jobs only they can carry out.
Until now, civilian volunteers could exercise the full range of police powers only by becoming special constables.
The new measures, which form part of a reforms package, will enable volunteers to be given some police powers without becoming a special constable.
Read more about cyber crime
- The chief of the Metropolitan Police Service's fraud squad Falcon admits the Met's policing of online fraud and cyber crime has not been good enough in the past.
- Co-operation with business in the private sector is an increasingly important element in fighting crime, according to UK, US and EU law enforcement officers.
- The Metropolitan Police should appoint a senior officer to ensure the whole force is prepared to tackle online crime, says a London watchdog.
Volunteers will reportedly have the power to make arrests and conduct on-the-spot searches.
The measures will bolster the current ranks of around 16,000 special constables and around 9,000 support staff volunteers in England and Wales.
There are about 60 volunteer roles, ranging from mountain rescue to animal welfare, crime scene investigation to firearms licensing, according to a survey by union Unison.
Police forces in Hampshire and Gloucestershire have already launched a pilot scheme to attract volunteers with digital skills, reports the BBC.
The association’s Partners against crime report called for collaboration between police and industry to raise standards of reporting, recording and responding to cyber crime.