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Essex Cyber crime unit detectives recognised with award

Two Essex officers have been recognised at the National Police Chiefs? Council Cyber Awards for their work.
Published - 20/11/2020 By - Chloe Livadeas

Detective Constable Arran Holmes and Detective Constable Steve Mersh both received Chief Constable’s Commendations from the Head of the NPCC Cybercrime Programme, Chief Constable Peter Goodman.

In summer 2020, the City of London Police published their annual data on cybercrime and fraud, which highlighted that the Essex Police Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) was the most successful of all forces, accounting for 56 per cent of all charges for cybercrime offences.

DC Holmes has been recognised for his work on Operation Identify – a large-scale investigation across the country, in which an offender enabled others to access the personal data of more than 500 women and obtain intimate images which they then posted online and used to cause harassment.

He pursued five offenders for three years, who were ultimately jailed for a total of more than 13 years for the harm they caused their victims. His relentless work, particularly the seizure and review of large amounts of digital evidence, ensured that the victims got justice and prevented further women being targeted by the group.

The force said: “Cybercrime can have a huge impact on victims of crime. Sometimes this can be financial, such as when companies’ websites are hacked or subjected to a ‘denial of service’ attack but, often, it can be more personal, such as loss of data, or personal images, which are then used to exploit victims.”

DC Mersh has been recognised for his innovative approach to cybercrime training. He developed a bespoke immersive training package for detectives who joined Essex Police via the Investigate First direct entry scheme, providing them with an understanding of the digital world and how to manage such investigations.

DC Mersh says: “We were assigned the detectives for an attachment as part of their introduction to the world of PIP2 investigations. To maximise the time, I decided on a number of digital elements that are common to any investigation.

“I approach training digital skills from a traditional viewpoint. Some courses go into great technical detail but don’t include actual policing examples. I refer to core investigative techniques within the training, for example, identifying the scene from a website/server perspective. This enables me to use language and techniques that are familiar to all police officers. Then I change their perception – not what they know. 

“My aim is to view any digital device or interaction as just another source of material.”

The training has been recognised at both regional and national level as leading the way in developing officers to enable them to investigate in a “complex, ever-changing cyber landscape” and it has apparently received excellent feedback from those who have taken the course.

Detective Sergeant Ian Collins, from the Essex Cyber Crime Unit, adds: “I am so pleased for Arran and Steve in receiving these awards. When I completed the applications, I knew the standard and competition across the country from Team Cyber UK was going to be extremely high, which makes these awards even more special for them both as they deserve all the recognition they have received.

“I say well done to them both and thank them for their hard work and commitment going above and beyond. Their work and that of the rest of the team has helped Essex Cyber become the best-performing cyber team in the UK for prosecutions this year and, with recent results, we should maintain that for 2021.”

This week, Graeme Biggar CBE, Director General of National Economic Crime Centre, National Crime Agency, warned that fraud is 35 per cent of reported crime and tackled by less than 1 per cent of policing. 

“We must respond better,” he said, “and that needs: clearer leadership & coherence of the fraud system, to provide clear priorities and accountability;  more proactive, top-down intelligence, using all-sou

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