Police fighting dramatic rise in online crime in Scotland 'with one hand tied behind back', Tories warn

Police are fighting a dramatic rise in online crime “with one hand tied behind their back”, the Scottish Conservatives have warned.

Figures from Police Scotland show the number of online crimes has soared by 60 per cent since 2018/19.

The force described it as "one of the defining crime trends of the recent period".

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Police are dealing with a huge rise in online crime

Cases of fraud have seen a massive increase of 77.5 per cent on the five-year average.

They rose by 30.1 per cent in the first half of the current financial year when compared to the same period in 2020/21.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said the rise in online crime was "deeply concerning".

He said: “Cyber criminals target the most vulnerable in society, such as children and the elderly.

"When our loved ones go online, it is essential that we feel confident that they will be safe from criminals.

“Police Scotland recognise the scale of the problem, but they are being asked to tackle it with one hand tied behind their back, because they are not getting the resources they need from the SNP Government.

“The Scottish Conservatives called for a £36.5 million increase in Police Scotland capital investment, which includes investment in IT, in the recent Scottish Budget.

"But the police were badly let down by the SNP, who actually cut funding in real terms.”

A Police Scotland performance report for the second quarter of 2021/22 noted: “One of the defining crime trends of the recent period is the increase in crimes with some cyber element involved, whether that be through the targeting and exploitation of victims online, the distribution of illegal images via digital devices, or fraudulent activity that exploits weaknesses in personal online banking.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A rise in recorded cyber-crime in Scotland, which has also affected England and Wales, is likely to reflect the growing adoption of digital technologies across society, accelerated in many ways by the current pandemic.

“We take the issue of cyber-crime extremely seriously and continue to work closely with Police Scotland and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to ensure Scotland is resilient to cyber threats.

"The NCSC helps identify fraudulent websites, prevent phishing emails, block phone numbers and ultimately bring offenders to justice.

“In March this year, Scotland’s scams prevention, awareness and enforcement strategy was published in order to facilitate a more coordinated approach to tackling scams in Scotland.

"As a first step in implementing the strategic framework set out in the strategy a new formalised Scottish Scams Prevention Partnership has been created and met for the first time in autumn 2021.

“Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through UK austerity, the total budget for policing in 2022/23 is almost £1.4 billion, including an additional £40.5m increase in resource funding and a further £6.6m to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

“And despite cuts to the Scottish Government’s capital budget we have more than doubled the police capital budget since 2017/18, supporting continued investment in police assets including the estate, vehicle fleet, specialist equipment and ICT to ensure officers have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "The revenue allocation outlined will enable policing to continue to set a balanced budget into 2022/23 and we welcome the support for this important stability.

"Policing requires capital investment to drive improvements and efficiencies to better enable officers and staff to serve the public. The capital allocation detailed will not allow policing to progress all our plans and we will prioritise available funding carefully."

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