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Fraud in Harlow: Why did it take Essex Police eight months to “answer” our questions?

Crime / Sat 24th Sep 2022 am30 10:56am

BACK in January, we noticed quite a few press releases and social media messages from Essex Police regarding fraud. Scam alerts, phishing expeditions etc.

We wanted to establish whether there was a problem in Harlow.?

As we had a number of questions, we put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

We were told that we should expect an answer in twenty working days.

We received an answer in September. Over 140 days later.

They stated: “Thank you for your Freedom of information (FOI) request logged under the above reference.  

“Please accept our apologies in respect of the delay you have experienced, we have struggled with resourcing and therefore we have not met the service expected”. 

The answers are below and frankly, we are none the wiser.

We did ask Essex Police for a comment and ten days later, they are still working on that.

We did contact the office of the Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst (Cons) but they haven’t replied.

It may well be another example that Essex Police claim they have extra numbers but a lot of the services still leave a lot to be desired.

It also begs a question, as to how many other FOI’s have not been answered on time? But we are not going to put in an FOI on FOIs.

We may be passing on our concerns to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

Here are the questions we asked and the (non) answers

Information Request  

Dec 2020 to 2021

Harlow

How many cases for forgery were reported to you?

How many were solved?

How many cases of fraud were reported to you?

How many were solved?

How many cases of phishing were reported to you?

How many were solved?

How many cases of identity theft were reported to you?

How many were solved?

FOI Duty  

First Duty – Essex Police holds some of the information relating to your request 

Second Duty – See below 

Fact – It is not possible to locate and confirm that all the data in your request is held 

Exemption – Section 12(2) 

Refusal – Section 17(5) of FOIA 

Reasoning – Essex Police retain our local spreadsheet of Fraud cases and separately records of Cybercrime related cases, which can be individual distinct cases, or form part of investigation files across many teams, Force wide.  At the same time, the National Fraud Investigation Bureau (NFIB) retain their own data which can include general Fraud and / or Cybercrime related fraud.

In respect of Cybercrime, there is no single offence recorded, it would entail a search on all offences with an online marker, this could also be held or managed locally by teams force wide forming part of or emerging from other investigation files and also held or recorded by the NFIB.

Duty to assist – When refusing a request on cost (Section 12(1)/12(2), outside of the act and in effort to assist we can provide the following –

We can advise that whilst Essex Police are not able to report data for this request, please note the following:

Caveat: The links and statements are correct as at 08/09/2022.

In respect of Harlow:

The following link is from our main Essex Police website where members of the public can identify the location of their choice, in this example, Harlow and a report on statistics and trends of crime in that area are available, this is updated as and when new data becomes available:

Netteswell | Your area | Essex Police

In respect of Fraud:

Fraud reporting occurs at a national level via the Action Fraud Service.  The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) then disseminates some of those crimes to Essex Police for investigation.

You may wish to contact Action Fraud who may be able to assist with your request. The following links may also be of interest:

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/what-is-national-fraud-intelligence-bureau

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud

As regards statistics for Fraud Crimes that have been allocated and investigated by Essex Police, please note that prior to January 2021, the Crime Recording System did not include a field that would allow the identification of the specific type of Fraud Offence to be able to provide a breakdown.  Since the beginning of 2021, the Fraud Team have either been adding Keywords/Tags to Fraud Crimes, therefore, we may be able to identify the specific type of Fraud Offence to be able to provide a breakdown. 

You may be interested in articles relating from our publication scheme, on:

Action Fraud (which contains additional links):

Fraud Statistics | Essex Police

Online Dating :

Dating Apps Mentioned in Crime Reports 2017-2021 | Essex Police

Phishing is referenced below:

Blocked Emails 2019 to 2021 | Essex Police

In addition, in an effort to assist, you may find the following link of interest, which provides Office for National Statistics (ONS) Data relating to Cyberbullying. 

Online bullying in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Online bullying in England and Wales appendix tables – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Please note the above request will be included within our Publication Scheme.  

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4 Comments for Fraud in Harlow: Why did it take Essex Police eight months to “answer” our questions?:

Nostradamus
2022-09-24 13:26:21

Obviously the short answer was "We haven't got a clue!"

Nostradamus
2022-09-24 13:27:25

A policeman's lot is not a happy one.

David Forman
2022-09-24 23:13:42

In my past dealings with Essex Police in a non-criminal capacity, I was regularly told how poor their Athena computer system was in extracting data and interacting with other systems. In particular, they had difficulty with the True Vision hate crime reporting portal and the inability to automatically forward those reports to the relevant county or city police forces. From the article above it is clear their databases are not that flexible. As for using spreadsheets instead of databases, that is really dreadful. Blame the Home Office and the Government for not investing in high quality information technology. As the saying goes with computing: "garbage in means garbage out."

Sam
2022-09-25 13:11:48

From reading your report I come to the conclusion that Essex Police may well prefer leaving "things as they are" so that the public don't bother them too often!

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