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New research to fight cybercrime gets police backing


New research by Leeds Beckett University to boost the effectiveness of investigating cybercrime has received a share of £10m in financial backing from the Police Knowledge Fund.


The initiative, launched by the College of Policing, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Home Office to boost links between police and academia, is set to fund research across the country to improve police response to child sexual exploitation and a new approach to hate crime.

The Leeds Beckett University project seeks to find solutions to the problems created by the growing use of digital technologies in many forms of criminal activity.

Professor Colin Pattinson, Head of the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering at Leeds Beckett University, said: “We are delighted to be awarded funding by the Police Knowledge Fund. The prevalence of digital technology means that it forms a part of many ‘traditional’ criminal activities as well as generating a form of crime of its own – cybercrime.

“Whatever the activity, digital technology generates and stores massive amounts of data, some of which will be vital to an investigation. The volume of data presented to an investigator, the time taken to locate relevant information and the risk that some will be overlooked, can have a major impact on the likelihood of successful prosecution. This project will evaluate current and potential ways of carrying out these investigations, seeking to bring about improvements in both effectiveness and efficiency of a range of methodologies. This project is an excellent complement to our taught courses, allowing our students to benefit from the knowledge gained.”

The 18-month, £640,000 Leeds Beckett project entitled ‘An evidence-based approach to fighting cybercrime from the frontline: improving the effectiveness and efficiency of investigating cyber enabled crime’, will be led by Dr Z. Cliffe Schreuders, an established researcher in the field of computer security and forensics. He will be collaborating with an academic team including: Emlyn Butterfield, who leads the University’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses in computer forensics and security; Dr John Elliott, Reader in Intelligence Engineering; Dr Tom Cockroft, Senior Lecturer in Criminology; and Hugo Smith, Course Leader for the Broadcast Media Technologies degree programme, who will create a video documentary of the project.

The Leeds Beckett University academics will work in close collaboration with West Yorkshire Police. Cyber investigation officers will undergo research training and will be part of the team, who will also be collaborating directly with police forces to conduct innovative research projects, focusing on weaknesses in police processes.

External collaborative partners include Professor Babak Akhgar, Director of CENTRIC, a research network located within the Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) at Sheffield Hallam University, and Professor Robin Bryant, Director of Criminal Justice Practice in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “The Police are dealing with ever more complex crimes including a growing amount of cybercrime. This money will allow us to look at how best we can tackle it and make our response more efficient.

“The project will analyse how cybercrime is currently investigated from the experience of the member of public reporting the crime, to the call taker, the attending officer, investigator and the Crown Prosecution Service – it will identify any gaps and needs in the policing of cybercrime.”

The College of Policing launched the £10m Police Knowledge Fund earlier this year to encourage collaboration between academia and police forces in order to increase evidence-based knowledge, skills and problem solving approaches within policing.

Higher education institutions, in partnership with police forces and other agencies, were able to bid for a share of the money to fund evidence-based approaches to problems faced by those on the frontline and to increase the flow of research in fighting crime.

Following a rigorous assessment process, 14 bids involving 39 forces, 30 universities, the British Transport Police, Police Service Northern Ireland and the National Crime Agency, have been awarded funding. The successful bids range from the establishment of collaborations to achieve evidence-based regional and national centres for professional development, to key strategic areas of policing, to innovative research work in areas such as cybercrime, mental health issues and digital policing strategies.

HEFCE’s Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, David Sweeney, said: “HEFCE is delighted by the response from the higher education sector to the Police Knowledge Fund. All of the bids identified exciting new opportunities for collaborative working and innovations with police forces and other partners.

“The 14 bids awarded funding will provide high-quality teaching and research activity, and add to the evidence and knowledge base to support current national priorities in policing and crime reduction. We look forward to continuing to work with the College of Policing, the Home Office and the universities involved to understand the impact and added value of the projects over the next two years and beyond.”

Other projects receiving funding include the University of Sussex, who will be working with the Metropolitan Police Service to modernise the approach to policing hate crime through making better use of the evidence base, while the University of Sheffield has partnered with South Yorkshire Police to improve the delivery of restorative justice and victim engagement.

Norfolk Police and North Wales Police will be working in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, along with Public Health England and leading children’s charities, to establish a national hub of expertise to improve the police response to child sexual exploitation. The hub will support collaborative working between academics and policing and link research with policy and practice initiatives.

The Open University will be working with more than 10 partner forces to establish a national centre for policing research and professional development. This bid builds on work which started through an award from the College’s Building Capability Fund 2013.

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