Studies have shown that Americans are increasingly being victimized by online abuses, such as cyber bullying, cyber stalking and cyber impersonation. When individuals are abused online they are often left to their own devices to resolve the problem. A common criticism among victims is that when law enforcement is approached with an Internet related complaint, law enforcement is unwilling or unable to help. Lack of training, lack of technological know-how and concerns over resources are often provided as reasons for law enforcement inaction.
Several states have already taken proactive steps to ensure both that their citizens have a venue to file Internet related complaints and to ensure that those complaints are properly investigated and prosecuted. Massachusetts, for example, has instituted cyber-crime training for cadets in its police academy, developed common operating procedures for the investigation and prosecution of cyber-crimes and developed a forum for information sharing among local law enforcement agencies.
In New Jersey, local law enforcement’s response to cyber-crimes is inconsistent, largely dependent upon a particular department’s size and resources. Several low-cost steps could be taken to dramatically improve the experience of cyber-crime victims. Suggestions include the following:
The Privacy Initiative of New Jersey aims to pass legislation requiring a cyber-liaison in every New Jersey police department. Until legislation is achieved, we encourage police departments to designate a cyber liaison themselves to proactively address this emerging criminal area.