Dr Alan Billings is the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. He has been a huge supporter of our Initiatives to safeguard people and raise awareness of the changing face of Crime. We are delighted he will be a regular contributor as our Guest Blog.

He begins with the growing Impact of Cyber Crime.

Cyber Crime Impacts Us All

The most recent figures show that crime is rising across most types – from burglary to homicide. But not only is crime rising, it is also changing. One of the biggest areas of growth is cybercrime.

This is very testing for the police since detecting and investigating these crimes will require more than a few more ‘bobbies on the beat’ – which is what the public tend to think is the answer to all crime. If large swaths of crime are going to be cyber, the police will need to recruit, train and retain officers and staff who know their way around the digital and computer world.

Cyber-related criminality is found across a range of crime types. The police divide these into two: cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled. Cyber dependent crimes are those that attack computers and networks. This is usually about the unlawful use of a computer system: accessing unlawfully or preventing a system working as it should. Cyber-enabled crimes are those where an offender has made use of a computer to carry out the crime. These include online fraud and blackmail (which may include sextortion), email scams, grooming and the use of social media to harass or stalk.

Much of this is difficult to measure or understand. But according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016, 47% of all crime involved fraud or computer misuse. So this is not a peripheral matter but is becoming a major part of the crime in this country and across the modern world. There is evidence to suggest that this type of crime in South Yorkshire is about the average across similar police force areas. When South Yorkshire police did a dip sample of all crime in April, 12% were cyber-enabled.

The government now has a national strategy in place and have set up a National Cyber Security Centre. The centre’s task is to ensure that critical services are safe from attack and to manage any critical incidents that may occur. But a Cyber Crime Assessment, produced by the Strategy Cyber Industry Group in 2016, concluded that criminal capability was currently outpacing the national strategic response. In Yorkshire and the Humber, we have a Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) that deals with cybercrime and the South Yorkshire police have a Strategic Cyber Crime Working Group and a Cyber Unit. There is also bespoke support available for those who are the victims of cyber fraud.

The Police and Crime Plan that I have to draw up each year for South Yorkshire, setting out the priorities for the police, requires the force to take cybercrime very seriously and I hold them to account against the requirements in the plan throughout the year. My Public Accountability Board received a report in July about what the force is currently doing and what its plans are for the future.

So cybercrime is a growing threat. It affects individuals and businesses alike. It is an invisible threat with huge consequences. We have to take action and not let our initial fears and anxieties deter us.

And it is important that we inform the police as early as possible if we are victims ourselves despite our reluctance to admit that we have been caught out. We can only make progress in tackling cybercrime if we have an accurate idea of its extent.

Dr Alan Billings
Police and Crime Commissioner – South Yorkshire