Monday 26th October 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

Crime Prevention during the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 28, 2020 Police

The NYE is doing its bit to support the police and NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic.

We recently ran an NHS appeal for blood donors. In this article, Chartered Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner Tim Hicks updates our readers with North Yorkshire Police advice on new and emerging threats from criminals, along with public safety and crime prevention from North Yorkshire Police (NYP) during these unprecedented times.

Crime Prevention during the Coronavirus Pandemic

by TIM HICKS

Introduction

Criminals are ruthless and very good at exploiting weaknesses by evolving into new areas of criminal activity.

This article tries to inform our readers of some of the threats they face during the Coronavirus outbreak, so they can stay safe.

First, some general background into the way that organised crime is adapting to the opportunities afforded by the Coronavirus outbreak, from the National Crime Agency.

National Crime Agency warning on organised crime during the Coronavirus outbreak

The National Crime Agency Press Office recently sent the NYE Newsdesk this press release:

National Crime Agency warn that organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to target the UK 

The National Crime Agency today warned that organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to target the UK.

Despite the unprecedented situation with the pandemic, the NCA is continuing to protect the public and leading the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime throughout this difficult time. 

Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General (operations), said: 

“Our mission in leading the fight against serious and organized crime has never been more important, and our work continues. We recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak may provide opportunities for criminals, and we are monitoring intelligence and crime trends to ensure that we, and the whole law enforcement system, can react as needed. 

NCA intelligence assessments have identified a number of issues that criminals are already looking to exploit. 

Cyber-crime investigators have seen instances of coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites, as well as email phishing attacks aimed at stealing personal and financial information. 

The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic and to ensure they are following online safety advice which can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre website. 

The City of London Police have issued an alert regarding fraudsters using the outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber-crime. Reported cases include criminals posing as health officials in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal information.

There have also been cases of criminal networks exploiting demand for certain coronavirus-related products. One such incident saw a consignment of suspected fake Covid-19 test kits sent from the UK seized by US border officials in Los Angeles. A man was arrested in Sussex by City of London Police attempting to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK, and has since been charged.

The NCA is continuing its work to protect children from abuse and exploitation online. A man from Darlington was sentenced on Monday for making more than 45,000 abuse images as a result of an NCA investigation.

As schools close, the agency is increasing its work with partners to bolster child safeguarding and online safety education. There is a risk of increased offending as people spend more time online and indoors, and the NCA is appealing to parents and carers to visit the Thinkuknow educational website for advice about keeping children and young people safe. 

While travel restrictions are impacting the levels of traffic passing through the UK border, only this week a seizure of half-a-tonne of cocaine was made by Border Force at Dover, leading NCA officers to charge a man with attempted importation. A man from Blackpool was also charged by the NCA after the recovery of firearms and ammunition at the Channel ports. 

And criminal groups involved in people smuggling have continued to try and evade border controls using small boats, with NCA intelligence suggesting that some OCGs are even telling migrants the UK is safer than the continent in a bid to drive up demand.” 

Get Safe Online provides advice and guidance to parents and young people with an interest in tech on how they can use and improve their skills legally online.

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a cyber-attack should report it to Action Fraud. 

Anyone with information about criminal activity can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111. 

NYP advice on public safety during the Coronavirus outbreak

Some time ago, the then NYP Chief Constable Jones and Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (PFCC) for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan split the joint NYP Corporate Communications Team they both used between them. This led to an increase in the total number of PR wonks employed in the Chief Constable’s Corporate Communications Team and the PFCC’s Corporate Communications Team.

Both Corporate Communications Teams are known in the NYE Newsroom as the NYP Wonk Platoons. NYP now has 11 PR wonks in its wonk platoon; the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner also has a lavishly staffed Corporate Communications Staff . The NYE is continuing to monitor its numbers.

In previous articles, I have been highly critical of the expenditure on corporate communications for the following reasons:

  • This level of staffing is excessive in the austere financial climate NYP faces.
  • Having overstaffed Corporate Communications Teams at a time when police resources are falling is indicative of an obsession with the public image of NYP and the personal images of the Chief Constable, and the PFCC.
  • The Corporate Communications Teams routinely indulge in media manipulation on behalf of the Chief Constable and PFCC Mulligan, to withhold bad news, suppress legitimate criticism and issue self-serving PR bumph. NYE articles here, here and here.

However, on this occasion I have to say that the output from the NYP Corporate Communications Team during the Coronavirus emergency has been first class. It is well-written and addresses an urgent policing need to inform the public during the present situation.

NYP Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker (pictured top) is leading the NYP response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Police advice on the current situation can be read below:

  • NYP statement on force policy by Assistant Chief Constable Walker and his appeal to parents and carers can be read here.
  • NYP advice and policy on restrictions in place and how NYP are enforcing them can be read here and here.
  • NYP advice on how parents can protect their children from Covid 19 can be read here.
  • NYP advice on how parents can protect their children from on-line grooming now that they are having greater internet access during the Covid 19 outbreak can be read here
  • NYP information on how fraudsters are taking advantage of the current unprecedented situation and how to protect yourself from being scammed can be read here.
  • Report of a successful NYP investigation into two women that posed as carers during the Covid 19 outbreak, so they could burgle a pensioner’s home is here. This article contains this important advice on how to protect yourself or vulnerable relatives from this type of offence:
  • If you are receiving voluntary help do not share financial details like credit/debit card numbers or personal information.
  • If someone you don’t know calls at your home, always ask for ID and always ensure you are comfortable sharing details like your phone number or address.
  • Only provide information on a need to know basis and if you have seen ID. Do not feel pressured into providing information.
  • If you have doubts about those who are approaching you, and are concerned, it is advised that you don’t engage, and report serious suspicious behaviour to the police.
  • Remember that genuine volunteers have been instructed not to enter your home and should all have documentation proving their status.

All of the above articles contain practical advice on how to comply with the restrictions and to protect yourself and your families. They are well worth reading.

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