A chief constable responsible for an area with the lowest crime rate in England and Wales says she does not believe police “cannot investigate their way through” financial fraud and cyber crime due to the enormous volume of offences taking place.
Lisa Winward has revealed to North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel her force was responding to the increasingly prevalent crimes by teaming up with regional and national colleagues.
Her comments follow recent speculation over the police’s capacity to respond to cyber crime and fraud.
During the Covid pandemic, in the year to March 2021, fraudsters stole more than £20 million from people living in North Yorkshire, in 5,625 incidents that were reported, with most victims targeted in online shopping scams.
Police say criminals have taken advantage of the rise in internet purchases as well as concerns over health and wellbeing.
South Milford councillor Tim Grogan, who served for West Yorkshire Police for 30 years, told a meeting of the panel that he appreciated the capacity of North Yorkshire Police to deal with the offences was limited and asked Ms Winward how her force was managing to cover the complex financial investigations.
The chief constable replied: “My personal opinion is we cannot investigate our way through financial fraud cyber crime because there are people who are victims of that crime on a daily basis, in the millions nationally, and a lot of it is not even reported.”
She said while many people regularly received fraudulent emails, they were not reported to police.
Ms Winward the force “linked in very closely” with Action Fraud, which is run by City of London Police, as well as dedicated economic and cyber crime teams being established as part of regional organised crime units which the force’s own economic crime officers worked with to “deconflict investigations”.
She said as most economic and cyber crime is extensive, involving many victims, it made sense for one police force to take the lead in investigations with support from Action Fraud.
After the meeting, Coun Grogan said he believed a northern regional team could be established to pool resources and increase capacity for investigations further.
He said: “As an ex-copper I know how pernicious this type of crime is and it is increasing, you get spam emails all the time and vulnerable people fall victim to this.
“I’m worried that North Yorkshire alone cannot deal with this. We need to join up with other forces.
“I think a massive education campaign is needed and focused towards older people and instead of the media concentrating on the negative aspects, there should be an information campaign to help people out. These crimes are so common that we really need to get a grip.”