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Cyber crime officers to be recruited in West Yorkshire

Mark Burns-Williamson
Mark Burns-Williamson

Nearly 70 specialist officers are being recruited to help tackle rising levels of online criminal activity in West Yorkshire.

The region's police force is employing a dedicated Detective Inspector for cyber crime to address the issue, along with a Detective Sergeant and an extra 28 constables.

The officers will all be employed to investigate incidents including fraud, identity theft and hacking, which have all taken on new forms with the growth of the internet. Probing cyber bullying and online harassment also forms part of their remit.

A total of 38 digital media investigators have already been taken on by West Yorkshire Police, after Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson set aside £250,000 to tackle cyber crime in 2015.

Three years on, Mr Burns-Williamson said that the changing nature of online offences made it "very challenging" for police forces across the UK to "keep up".

He said: "It's an area where technology and crime trends are difficult to keep up with and monitor. I think we're learning all the time.

"But because we've got a dedicated cyber crime team we are actually really well placed in terms of being as up to speed as possible.

"Whether it's bullying online or fraud, it's important that we provide an appropriate response to it."

A recent West Yorkshire Police report criticised the National College of Policing for "hampering" efforts to bolster the number of specialist online officers.

The report said: "Whilst the force acknowledges that there is a need to increase the number of digital media investigators, this ambition has been hampered by the lack of training provided nationally by the College of Policing."

Mr Burns Williamson said the issue was being addressed and that frontline police were being given the right help.

He said: "It's recognised that the College of Policing who are the body that set the national guidelines and standards around this sometimes are a little bit behind the curve in terms of how quickly we can train our officers.

"There's been a lot of work gone on to ensure that the appropriate specialist training is given to frontline officers, because increasingly I think they are coming across reports of cyber crime and they need to be able to respond appropriately."