A Metropolitan Approach to Identity Theft :

The Police Chief magazine has an excellent article on the challenges of policing identity theft in large metropolitan areas as well as providing solutions to these challenges. This articled is authored by Robert F. Berardi, sergeant, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department of Whittier California.

Identity crime is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the 21st century, requiring the creation of laws to protect citizens from acts of fraudulence. Identity crime is defined as “the illegal use of another’s personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security number, or driver’s license number, to commit fraud or other crimes.” This article outlines the response to the growing problem of identity crime in Los Angeles County, California.

California passed its original identity theft law in 1998, but it quickly became apparent that law enforcement agencies were not prepared for what they faced: the state legislature has since amended, modified, and strengthened the identity theft statute several times. Even today, many law enforcement practices that predated the law remain unchanged, practices that cannot meet the needs of the state’s identify theft law. One of the most common difficulties facing local law enforcement agencies is the jurisdiction of the case. Often, police departments refer cases to other agencies for investigation because the suspect or the victim does not live in their jurisdiction or it appears that the fraudulent transaction occurred in a distant location.

Resources for Enforcement

Attempting to address the problem of identity crime requires an effective enforcement arm in addition to legislation. To adequately address the increasing number of identity crimes, an agency must be in a position to commit sufficient resources. For many agencies, additional resources for enforcing such emerging crime issues have not been forthcoming. They find it much easier to refer the victim to larger metropolitan agencies, especially when it would cross several jurisdiction lines and would strain the daily operation of smaller agencies to appropriately investigate the case.

Although a larger metropolitan law enforcement agency may serve as a resource for other departments in handling cases crossing jurisdiction lines, the metropolitan department also has daily duties and faces its own challenges in maintaining a constant level of effective service. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has felt this conflict since its formation in 1850 and has benefited and learned from each incident.

The most important lesson learned is that statistical information must be developed to identify the level of need: what is the extent of the identity theft problem, and how does this problem (along with the newly passed legislation) affect our constituents and the department’s current and future operation?

Based on available data, reported identity theft incidents in Los Angeles County skyrocketed from 645 incidents in 1999 to 2,119 incidents in 2000 (fig. 1). Over the course of one year, identity theft had become a measurable, significant problem. The LASD formed a pilot program called the Identity Theft Task Force to provide a coordinated and localized effort to handle these investigations. The pilot program was closely monitored to determine if the investment would be worth the effort.

To read this whole article, click here

- The Hackett Security Team

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