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UK tech industry welcomes government’s new anti-crime strategy

Only a modern strategy that incorporates technological advances and the greater use of data analytics can improve UK crime prevention, says TechUK

The UK tech industry has welcomed the technology focus of the government’s new crime prevention strategy.

The Modern Crime Prevention Strategy was launched by the home secretary Theresa May at the Home Office’s International Crime and Policing Conference in London.

The Conservatives promised to develop a modern crime prevention strategy to address the key drivers of crime in the party’s 2015 election manifesto.

“The fact that crime is changing means we all need to update the way we think about crime prevention, building on the successes of the past whilst making the most of new research, techniques and tools to protect the public,” May wrote in the foreword to the strategy document.

“We need to recognise that the crime prevention challenge has evolved – we now need to prevent serious harm that happens inside victims’ homes, or to stop a cybercriminal on the other side of the world from targeting thousands of people here with a single keystroke.”

The strategy document sets out proposals to make crime harder to commit, and includes giving consumers more information on how secure their smartphone is and using a new risk assessment tool to identify who is most at risk from fraud and cyber crime.

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“The strategy also focuses explicitly on how all of us can use data and new technology as powerful tools for preventing crime,” said May.

“I believe that fraud and cyber crime, to name but two, are as preventable as car crime and burglary if we understand the problem, work together and use our collective ingenuity to beat the criminals.”

Funding help

According to the strategy, the Police Transformation Fund will help police forces enhance their capabilities to prevent crime, including cyber crime and child sexual exploitation, and government will use the Home Office’s convening power to bring together relevant partners from across the private and voluntary sectors to find innovative solutions to new challenges.

Henry Rex, programme manager, justice and emergency services at technology association TechUK, said the Home Office has rightfully acknowledged that although “traditional” crimes like burglary and car theft may be on the decline, “hidden” crimes, such as online fraud, are rapidly increasing. 

“The use of technology by criminals gives criminals greater speed, access and reach to affect potential victims and presents a unique challenge to law enforcement,” he said.

Only a modern crime prevention strategy that incorporates technological advances and the greater use of data analytics can allow law enforcement, businesses, academia and the public to work better together to prevent crime, Rex said

Inextricably linked

The new strategy has also been welcomed by UK fraud prevention service Cifas. “Fraud and technology are inextricably linked, and the internet offers a fantastic opportunity for fraudsters to attempt fraud on an industrial scale, with more than 85% of identity crime originating online,” said Simon Dukes, Cifas chief executive.

“Technology has also proven to be a key weapon in preventing crime. Therefore we welcome the home secretary’s focus on technology being central to the fight against fraud and cyber crime,” he said.

According to Dukes, Cifas has long maintained the need for law enforcement agencies, private, public and third-sector organisations to share data and intelligence to disrupt both the online and offline opportunities for criminals to commit fraud.

“Everyone has their part to play to prevent this ever increasing crime, and fraud prevention relies as much upon an individual’s awareness as it does upon technology or an organisation’s security. As such, the need for a better societal understanding of how we can protect ourselves must be a priority for all of us,” he said.

Faith in justice

Dukes said the public must have faith in the criminal justice system. “Cifas supports the renewed focus on ensuring it acts as an effective deterrent.

“Criminals must be made aware that whether they defraud a multinational company of millions or swindle a widower’s pension, they will face a sentence which reflects the impact of their crimes.”

Financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £755m in 2015, up 26% on 2014, and driven largely by identity theft, according to the latest report by Financial Fraud Action UK.

Payment card fraud accounted for 75% of UK fraud losses in 2015, most of which was remote-purchase fraud using card details stolen though data hacks and malware, the report said.

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