The job description for law enforcement officials has always been to protect and serve, but in our digital age, the places where this protection is most necessary have begun to evolve. As cybercrime becomes an increasing concern in the U.S. and around the world, lawmakers are considering new measures that would train policemen and women on how to address digital crime.
At this year’s annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, Representative Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, unveiled a new bill that would grant state and local law enforcement $20 million to both investigate and prosecute cybercrimes. Noting that the majority of online harassment and potentially dangerous trolling targets women, Clark also put forth a proposal for a $4 million national research center that would provide technical expertise for officials.
“We hope to raise awareness and develop local expertise for law enforcement so we are able to prosecute more of these cases,” she told Buzzfeed News.
Clark, who has long worked to bring the national spotlight on the growing issue of cybercrime, is intimately acquainted with the dangerous repercussions of this new, more aggressive form of trolling. The congresswoman was recently a victim of “swatting,” a relatively new phenomenon in which malicious actors hack official systems in order to send police officers, or sometimes even SWAT teams, to the doorsteps of unsuspecting victims.
Currently, given the newness of such crimes, Clark notes that many law enforcement officials are unaware of how best to investigate and address issues of online threats and harassment. “The FBI … clearly told us this was not a priority for them and that was a sentiment we have found to be a theme,” she told the Verge. And as such, Clark notes, there is a distinct need to “build the capacity of local law enforcement to understand the impact of these crimes and how to best investigate them.”
The future of the bill is yet to be determined, but as instances of cybercrime continue to grow, it seems that such a measure may soon become a necessity.