We will all benefit from harnessing IT expertise

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As we live more and more of our lives online, so the criminals are never far behind.

We are all potential victims of cyber crime today – and that’s why Hampshire police are launching a pilot scheme to use the knowledge of IT experts.

It makes a lot of sense. Senior officers admit that investigations are reaching ‘dead ends’ as staff and officers do not have the necessary technical skills to pursue them.

So why not harness the expertise of those whose job it is to know computers inside out?

Home secretary Theresa May clearly sees the merit of the scheme. She gave it her blessing by visiting the Forensic Innovation Centre in Portsmouth, which is at the forefront of the fight against digital crime, on Monday.

If the police need help tackling fraud, those who seek to hold data to ransom and even online child sexual exploitation, then let them have it.

The harsh financial reality is that the county force simply does not have the cash to train its own workers, or employ people with the necessary expertise. So surely it’s sensible to make good use of all the IT knowledge we have in this part of the world.

The pilot – run by Hampshire and Gloucestershire forces – will have five special constables and five police support volunteers.

But a bone of contention is that they are unpaid positions. John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, thinks that is wrong.

He says: ‘If we want to be serious about tackling an increased threat, then we have to invest heavily in it. And that means we pay people to do the job that we want them to do.’

In an ideal world, we agree. But if IT experts are happy to help by giving their time and expertise, then we will all benefit from the increased focus on tackling cyber crime.