Making the most of fraud and computer misuse crime report data
Researchers and public authorities are increasingly exploring the potential of routinely collected administrative data to generate new insights. This includes recent work leveraging the opportunities of the crime report data collected by the UK’s national reporting centre, Action Fraud (AF). In fact, these data are a key resource for police officers and crime analysts and have a huge potential to inform local response, e.g. to help better understand victims’ needs, demands on police services and the experiences of repeat victims.
An analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Action Fraud data is especially timely in the UK, given the government’s commitment to deliver “an improved national fraud and cybercrime reporting system”, and the ongoing re-commissioning of the Action Fraud system. However, the quality of these data has not been systematically evaluated.
A new research paper looks at the strengths and weaknesses of Action Fraud data, particularly with respect to the less developed ‘Protect’ strand of policing, which aims to increase protection for those who are at risk of further victimisation. It outlines the challenges and opportunities of using Action Fraud data in cybercrime and fraud victimisation research and practice and makes recommendations to improve the quality of this dataset. It does so by drawing on insights from two studies the author has undertaken using samples of Action Fraud data pertaining to crime reports within the Welsh police forces, between 2014 and 2020.
In this paper, the strengths and limitations of Action Fraud data are discussed and grouped into themes. Recommendations are made to improve Action Fraud data to generate better insights, including the use of accuracy metrics and the development of a data catalogue.
The strengths and weaknesses of Action Fraud data must be fully understood, to realise its potential. This will lead to better research insights and will help practitioners and policy makers work towards improving the response to fraud and computer misuse crimes. This analysis will also aid frontline officers and crime analysts to make the most of this dataset, harnessing it to produce key insights for crime prevention and meeting victims’ needs. Finally, the insights presented will be valuable to policy makers and practitioners involved in the development and design of crime recording systems in today’s data-driven world.
A senior member of staff at City of London noted this was an “excellent piece of work” which will help “leverage the potential of the national data.”
Dr Sara Correia, Lecturer in Cyber Threats at Swansea University commented that “understanding the current strengths and limitations of this dataset will help design better systems, capable of generating robust insights for research, policy and practice”.