A ‘historic’ meeting between the seven Chief Constables and crime commissioners of Yorkshire and the North East could lead to the region’s seven police forces working together to tackle the growing threat of cyber-crime.
Yorkshire’s most senior officers, and those from the Cleveland, Northumbria and Durham polices forces, met this week for the first time near Middlesbrough to discuss how they could collaborate.
It is the latest stage of efforts by police chiefs in the region to share resources and comes in the week that the forces in Devon & Cornwall and Dorset suggested merging to form a more efficient single unit.
Barry Coppinger, police and crime commissioner for Cleveland, wrote on Twitter: “Making history in a meeting with the 7 North East Chief Constables, PCCs and Chief Executives - lots of positive discussions.”
He added: “We agreed to work together across the seven force region to keep people safe, to better understand and respond to cybercrime, including the identification of a group to carry out this important work, to commit to future meetings and to develop governance going forward.”
His West Yorkshire counterpart Mark Burns-Williamson told The Yorkshire Post that the meeting was about getting senior police officials to “buy in” to the notion of working closer together in some areas.
He said: “Cyber-crime is something we are keen to further explore to see what more we can do to pool resources to look at the co-ordinated response.
“It is too early to say what the outcome will be, it is at a very early stage. It was a high-level discussion to establish principle.
“We needed to establish what the national direction of travel was and we thought it would be a good thing to have a more co-ordinated approach. We will be coming up with proposals as to how we will do that in the next few months.
“It was a positive meeting and we all acknowledged that as criminality changes, with cyber-crime, a lot of boundaries are non-existent with crime online.
“That sort of thing is something we all have to consider and look at making sure we are using our resources as effectively as possible.”
In an online message, West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Dee Collins described the meeting as “terrific” and “positive”.
Another seven-force meeting is expected later this year, in addition to the more regular regional collaboration meetings which just involve the Yorkshire forces.
In recent years, police in Yorkshire have responded to budget cuts by attempting to collaborate with their neighbouring forces.
South Yorkshire and Humberside Police share human resources and IT functions, while North Yorkshire has merged its major crime and dogs section with neighbouring Cleveland and Durham.
Scientific support services and underwater search are already carried out by a single team across the four Yorkshire forces.
In July, the woman in charge of West Yorkshire’s cyber unit said online crime is now even more prevalent in Yorkshire than traditional offences but is still “massively under-reported”,
An investigation by The Yorkshire Post and its sister titles, found that police forces across the country reported an 86 per cent rise in reports of cyber crime in the past year alone, while dedicating only a fraction of their budgets towards solving them.