Law Enforcement in a Digital Age (Opinion)

Cyber-crime means more collaboration is needed at the state and local levels.

by / June 9, 2010

This Digital Communities special report focuses on some of the challenges and opportunities for law enforcement agencies in the digital age, especially the new or enhanced possibilities for collaboration and information sharing.

Of course, the underlying lesson for law enforcement is the same one that most institutions have had to learn in our rapidly changing world - adapt and evolve, or perish. But what makes this particularly challenging for law enforcement is that this must occur on two major fronts.

On one hand, crime organizations have moved onto the Internet big time. Federal statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show a 33 percent increase in cyber-crime complaints in 2008 from the previous year, and these now routinely include all manner of criminal enterprises, such as money laundering, check fraud, identity theft and credit card fraud.

And as the National Institute of Justice points out on its website, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement occurs at the state and local level. So while federal agencies may have a major responsibility in combating e-crime, they simply cannot handle the sheer number of incidents. Therefore, preventing and combating cyber-crime "depends on building relationships and partnerships in local communities."

On the other front - the one we deal with in more detail here - there's a continuing need to harness information and communication technology-based tools to drive new levels of collaboration and coordination across jurisdictions and agencies.

That again is necessitated by a changing world - one where criminals may no longer operate from the neighborhood or even the same jurisdiction or country. Rather, they might be sitting in a compound in Afghanistan or a drug lord's encampment in South America. And local law enforcement needs the same kind of reach and a global perspective as the criminals now have. Now that's a culture shift!