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The Bill

The full impact of technology in the fight against crime only came to me recently, when I found myself making a 999 call from a windswept seafront in Kent. Posted by Hello


A good kilometre from the centre of town, I was starting to despair over how long it was taking for the police operator to record my home address and position when she suddenly interjected, “I can see them now on the CCTV.” With my phone still pressed to my ear, I scanned around. Where on earth was the camera, I wondered, that could see this far? Two minutes later a police car arrived on the exact spot and seven youths with hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps were arrested but the incident left me thinking that the grip of the surveillance society extends further than I had imagined.

With a general election perhaps only six months away, all the political parties are expressing increasingly tougher messages on crime and its causes but none of them appear to have any real answers to crime on the streets and crime on the Internet. In fact, because the former is more immediate and experienced more regularly by the greater part of the population, the impact of the latter is not given the real attention it needs in an economy that is placing more and more emphasis on the importance of online trading.

Research from LogicaCMG reveals that over a million people in the UK have become victims of online security breaches and that one in twenty consumers have either lost or experienced an attempt to steal their financial or personal details while shopping or banking on the Internet . The result, says the report, is a loss of confidence in the medium, with 43 per cent comparing this to the experience of being robbed and 31 per cent claiming a loss of trust in the brand or the company involved.

At this month’s Serious & Organised Crime conference in London, another report, this time from Robson Rhodes, revealed that at the opposite end of the spectrum, 17 per cent of companies – mostly banks and online retailers - had either had their identity stolen or experienced an attempt to steal that identity for purposes related to the first example, which could be phishing for personal financial information.

Robson Rhodes describes identity theft and economic crime as “A serious and growing threat to all companies” and reports that 59% of businesses in their FTSE 100 and 250 survey group expect the problem grow over the next three years with 54% of respondents having had to take disciplinary action against perpetrators in the last twelve months. Many companies are reporting losses of three to five per cent of turnover as a consequence of fraud of all kinds and the cost to British business is estimated at £32 billion with the costs of prevention at a further £8 billion annually.

There’s an unpleasant reality to consider here, in a world where the CCTV cameras are more likely to be owned by serious and organised criminals watching you type your pin number into your local cash point machine. Without a doubt, government of any colour has to do more to protect confidence in the online environment and only this month, in a landmark case, the first of its kind in the UK, four eastern Europeans appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to defraud financial institutions through the use of a phishing scam.

While government attempts to protect society from paedophiles and anti-social behaviour, it may be losing the initiative elsewhere, after all, in cyberspace, nobody can hear you dialling 999.

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