Efforts are being made to stop people in County Durham becoming the victims of internet crooks, thieves and conmen.
The Safe Durham Partnership has made tackling the growing threat of cyber-crime a priority and it aims to combat this problem through raising awareness, education and cooperating with other organisations.
The Safe Durham Partnership was established to promote safety and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Organisations involved in the partnership include Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary, the National Probation Service, and Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue.
Dave Orford, who is Durham’s assistant chief constable and the chair of the Safe Durham Partnership, said, “Cyber-crime is a fast-growing area of crime, with more and more criminals exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities which know no borders, either physical or virtual, cause serious crime and pose very real threats to victims.”
“Locally in County Durham we are working in partnerships across our communities and our businesses to raise awareness of the risks.”
“And we will continue to share information with the public in a bid to ensure they do not become the next victims of online crime.”
As well as cooperating with the Safe Durham Partnership, Durham Constabulary has established a Digital Intelligence and Investigation Team to tackle cyber-crimes and to stay up-to-date with the latest threats, computer viruses and internet swindles.
Councillor David Boyes, the chair of Durham County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said, “Cyber-crime is very much a 21st century challenge and we need to adapt to this changing world to deal with criminals who look to take advantage.”
“Cyber-crime may be prevented by taking simple steps. These include creating a complex password, updating anti-virus software and not clicking on unexpected e-mails from unknown sources.”
“Through our 14 Area Action Partnerships, we will continue to support the Safe Durham Partnership in getting these crime prevention messages out to our communities.”
Recently the Safer and Stronger Communities Committee was briefed about some of the measures implemented in County Durham to deal with online criminality. One of these, the Get Safe Online project, gives safety advice to the public on matters including social media, internet banking, online business activities, online shopping and issues around internet use by children.
The committee were also told about the Stay Safe Online at Christmas campaign, which used a virtual advent calendar to dispense internet safety tips. In addition, the committee heard about efforts in schools to educate youngsters about the dangers of online hate speech and social media bullying.
Councillor Joy Allen, cabinet member for safer communities, said, “Partnership working is crucial in tackling cyber-crime.”
“It is important that our communities understand how to protect themselves against being a victim and I support the work of the Safe Durham Partnership in addressing this type of crime.”
You can report cyber-crimes by calling Durham Constabulary on 101 or by going to www.durhampolice.uk. For information about how to protect yourself, your computer, your mobile devices and your business against internet scams, identity theft, viruses and other online threats, please visit www.getsafeonline.org/durham.
It is difficult to be sure exactly how much online crime is taking place. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that, in the 12 months up to June 2016, 3.8 million cyber-crimes may have occurred in the UK. The ONS has also calculated that, in the same time-period, there were around 487,000 occasions on which people lost money due to internet frauds and computer viruses.