Online crime takes bobbies off the beat

Alec Wood
Alec Wood
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An increase in cyber crime is putting more pressure on police officers to spend time behind desks rather than on the beat, Cambridgeshire’s top police officer has revealed

Chief Constable Alec Wood said the force was facing an unprecedented demand on its services - with online offences, including child grooming and fraud seeing a big rise - meaning detectives having to work in a different way to bring criminals to justice.

There has been a 15 per cent increase in 999 calls in the county over the past year, and a further rise since terror attacks in Manchester and London.

Mr Wood said: “Some of the increase has been because we are getting a lot of repeat calls - for example we had one incident in Peterborough that lasted 20 minutes where we received more than 20 calls from mobiles - all from well intended members of the public but of course it all puts pressure on. We are still working on some of the reasons behind this but particularly since (the terror attacks on) Westminster Bridge, Manchester and London Bridge.

“We think it is partly because people are being encouraged to phone, and partly because other agencies are not able to respond in the same way. We also have big increases in crimes with vulnerable victims, and also with cyber crime - whether that’s fraud, banks being attacked, online grooming of children - its almost a whole new industry, which requires us to think and respond in a different way than we do at present.

“In the way cyber crime is concerned and how we respond, ultimately that requires more people sitting at desks investigating, but yet quite understandably, and rightly, the public would like to see more uniformed visible officers on the street.”

Mr Wood said the demand and budgetary and resource problems also meant the force had to prioritise other offences ahead of some anti-social offences.

Mr Wood said: “I completely recognise the impact anti-social behaviour can have on people’s lives, and if we were in an ideal situation financially and resources wise it would be something the police would be dealing with on a daily basis.

“But the stark reality at the moment is my priority has to be to protect the most vulnerable people from the most dangerous offenders in the county and deal with the most serious offences first.”