Federation leads the way in addressing cyber crime

22 October 2018

Simon Kempton

PFEW Technology lead Simon Kempton

The internet can be made a ‘toxic environment’ for criminals if police officers and internet companies work more closely together.

That was the message from the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Technology lead Simon Kempton following his appearance at ground-breaking cyber security symposium.

Hosted by the online market place Gumtree, it saw leading experts from the cyber and criminal justice arenas come together to discuss the emerging issues connected with policing the internet.

The event, which consisted of two panel debates was held at The Courthouse Hotel in London on 19 October.

As well as Mr Kempton other guest speakers included Sir Craig Mackey Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Henry Rex Programme Manager for Justice and Emergency Services for TechUK, Lord Harris from National Trading Standards and Katy Bourne the Police and Crime Commissioner of Sussex.

Speaking following the discussion Mr Kempton said: “It was a great opportunity to take part in such an innovative event. The prevalence people’s use of the internet means that this is a vital issue for police officers to be aware and informed about.

“Cyber-linked criminality can take various forms from the most commonly experienced such as theft and fraud, but increasingly we are seeing evidence of its use for even more insidious offences such as stalking and harassment,” he said.

The event was timed to coincide with the publication of Gumtree’s ‘Tacking Crime in Online Marketplaces’ report which details what the company has done to tackle, prevent and assist those working in law enforcement to increase the safety of its users.

Mr Kempton praised the company’s proactive approach to the issue saying: “Almost everyone now carries a hugely powerful computer in their pocket in the form of their mobile phone - and for the criminally minded this opens up a world of opportunity.

“Gumtree have recognised this and their approach is to tackle it straight on rather than try and bury their heads in the sand and disassociate themselves from the issues.

“They actively want to work with the police to improve their platform and increase the safety of their users; and to understand what police officers need when investigating offences linked to their site so they can better assist them.

“The aim for all is to make the internet a toxic environment for those who seek to use it for illegal purposes,” he said.

Mr Kempton also highlighted the need for adequate training for those officers tasked with investigating online offences.

He said: “There are some world-class cyber investigators in this country however these pockets of excellence are not the norm. Most of my colleagues who will be tasked with investigating the less complex offences committed via, or facilitated by, the internet will probably have received next to no specialist training in this area and that must be addressed as a matter of urgency given the dramatic increase in this type of offending.”

He also urged better information sharing between law enforcement personnel and internet companies, and between the companies themselves (within the confines of data protection legislation), so that persistent or prolific offenders can be identified and monitored.

Matt Button, head of marketing and customer service at Gumtree who organised the event said: “Gumtree already has well established working relationships with police, but historically these have evolved through circumstance rather than design.

“Our aim is to form closer partnerships with investigators – particularly with Police Federation members – to fight crime by sharing intelligence more closely.

“We hope that this shared learning will prove useful for others in our joint aim of eradicating criminal activity from our platforms, and look forward to working more closely with officers in the future.”

Going forward a working group comprised of other internet companies, law enforcement officials and representatives from the Government is planned. Its aim will be to develop better working practices and systems which will benefit all parties in preventing and detecting internet enabled crime.