IT professionals could volunteer to assist the police as "special constables" in computer crime investigations under plans to reform policing.
The proposal, part of a Home Office consultation exercise, followed lobbying from IT parliamentary industry group Eurim over the adequacy of police resources to tackle the rising tide of computer crime.
The paper suggested that police forces could make more use of civilian IT experts, who could act as special constables without leaving their day jobs.
The Home Office is also looking at plans to create a lead police force to specialise in investigating internet crime or online paedophilia. This would reduce pressure on local police forces by taking on cases that would otherwise swamp them.
Police and businesses have complained that Operation Ore, the national online paedophile investigation, has taken resources from investigations into hacking and other computer crime.
The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime unit, jointly funded by banks and the Home Office, could act as a model for collaborations between police and industry, Home Office officials said.
The DCPC unit, supported by 25 police and admin staff, has tackled 50 investigations of credit card fraud by organised crime groups and has claimed to have saved more than £7m in two years.
Before the unit was created the police were reluctant to take on credit card fraud investigations, but now the Home Office sees the unit as a template for the future, the Association of Payment Clearing Services said.
IT professionals have welcomed the proposals for greater collaboration. "This programme would give law enforcement, and thus the community, access to skills they might not otherwise be able to find or afford. I would relish the opportunity to give my time," said Richard Starnes, director of incident response at Cable & Wireless.
Home Office proposals
More could be done by police forces to access the specialist skills, including IT skills, of civilians. IT staff could operate as special constables while based at work. The Security Industry Authority could accredit new recruits
Lead forces, focusing on internet crime or online paedophilia, could provide more effective policing
Volunteers (without full police powers) could assist local forces.
Responses to the Home Office by 27 January ' www.policereform.gov.uk/docs/consultation2003.html