Northern Ireland

Cyber crime: PSNI opens £4.3m centre to combat threat

Det Supt Richard Campbell, head of PSNI's Cyber Crime Unit in south Belfast. Image copyright PA
Image caption Det Supt Richard Campbell is in charge of the new unit in south Belfast

Almost every police investigation has a "cyber element", according to the head of the PSNI's Cyber Crime Unit.

The new centre, which cost £4.3m, opened this week in south Belfast.

Det Supt Richard Campbell said in the past year, the PSNI had seen the number of phones and mobile devices being examined increase by 160%.

"Almost every investigation... has the potential, even likelihood now, to have some sort of cyber element to it, including homicide," he said.

"And including investigations involving the indecent images of children, which forms quite a significant part of the work we do here."

'Ordinary-looking van'

First proposed in 2011, the unit will be involved in dealing with crime ranging from fraud to murder investigations.

Staffed by 35 officers and support staff, the unit is supported by four cyber support units in Belfast, Londonderry, Newtownabbey and Portadown.

Chief Constable George Hamilton described the facility has a "hub for innovation and creativity".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Inside the new centre, which will be staffed by 35 officers

He said advancing technology brought "an increased risk as criminals seek to exploit the complexities of the web".

The PSNI also has the UK's first mobile forensic lab, which has been replicated in other parts of the UK.

The lab, which houses a range of equipment in the back of an ordinary-looking van, allows police to examine mobile phones and devices at the scene of an incident.

The on-site examination of electronics means devices can be screened and do not need to be confiscated.

By running those checks, the PSNI is able to eliminate about six out of 10 devices from requiring further examination.

Det Supt Campbell said that can be vital in not interrupting business and in the past officers were "faced with having to seize every device" during a search.

He said officers were able to say at the scene "with a fair bit of confidence" that devices did not hold relevant information and did not require another search.

More on this story