SKILLED computer experts are being urged to join a nationwide cadre of police volunteers to tackle cyber crime.
Senior officers battling to stay one step ahead of hackers are hoping to enlist IT network managers, advanced coders and analysts in a bid to boost capability with expertise that police ‘can’t afford’.
The pilot, launched last year in Hampshire, has already seen volunteers tackle 25 cases, including in an attempted murder investigation.
The cyber special constable and cyber volunteers pilot has been run by Hampshire and Gloucestershire forces after a launch last year by then Home Secretary Theresa May.
It sees industry experts volunteer unpaid to help bolster police investigations, bringing with them technical skills.
In Hampshire 15 members of the team have also been training regular officers and staff on the latest threats.
This summer Chief Officer Tom Haye, national lead for the scheme for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, is launching a nationwide roll-out.
He said: ‘It’s very different from what we’re used to in UK policing.
‘Specials and volunteers traditionally come in to support operational policing, more bobbies on the street or to support us with SpeedWatch as volunteers.
‘But these people come in with incredible skills, skills that we can’t afford and very much at the top of their game in industry.
‘This has to be a win-win situation for us but for the individuals too.
‘Quite a few of them in their day job might get involved in investigating a cyber crime but can’t take it to the next step.
‘But by coming here they can actually take that to the next step.’
Mr Haye, who leads Hampshire’s Special Constabulary, added: ‘The pilot has been a massive success.’
The National Crime Agency is already running its own specials scheme, drafting in IT experts.
Former Detective Supt Phil McTavish, who works on the project in Hampshire, said: ‘The volunteers have been helping us understand cyber threats, ransomware attacks, those sorts of things, helping with technical problems within investigations, providing a better response around protecting the public, all of those areas that we want to work with our volunteers about.
‘We’ve identified some key issues and for the last three months we’ve been utilising our volunteers along those lines, and they’ve been delivering some great stuff.
‘There’s been early benefits around helping us understand data better, working within our digital forensics teams, investigation teams, economic crime teams, all those areas of the force that are dealing with cyber crime, we’re deploying our volunteers there.’