In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Policing Cybercrime

  • Introduction
  • Overall Summaries of Issues Regarding the Policing of Cybercrime
  • Analyses of Law Enforcement Agencies’ Efforts
  • Law Enforcement Perceptions of Cybercrime and Strategies
  • Policing Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking
  • Policing Online Fraud
  • Policing Cyberterrorism and Cyberwarfare
  • Policing Child Pornography and Sex Crimes
  • Training
  • Digital Forensics and Investigations
  • Impact of Digital Forensic Work
  • Innovative or Cooperative Responses to Cybercrime
  • Non-Western Cybercrime Responses

Criminology Policing Cybercrime
Adam M. Bossler
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0244


As technology continues to become intertwined with each aspect of our lives, law enforcement at all levels will need to continue in better understanding how technology influences human behavior, including the commission of crime. Scholars and police administrators have argued over the last several decades that local law enforcement will need to assume a larger role in the investigation and prevention of cybercrime. Since official statistics on cybercrime in the United States are poor or nonexistent, and similar conclusions can be made about other countries as well for a wide variety of reasons, it is challenging to assess how the nature of cybercrime has changed over time as well as whether specific police strategies are effective. When examining the literature on the law enforcement response to cybercrime, scholars have spent much of their efforts providing broad overviews of cybercrime and how its characteristics create unique challenges for their investigation and prevention. However, more literature is moving toward the prediction or evaluation of effective policing strategies to deal with specific cybercrime types, such as the use of Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces to more effectively deter child pornography production. In fact, the literature has grown regarding examinations of the strengths and weaknesses of how law enforcement handles specific forms of cybercrime, such as cyberbullying and cyberstalking, online economic crimes, cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare, and child pornography. Scholars have also surveyed police administrators, officers, and digital forensic examiners to get a better understanding of their perceptions of cybercrimes, the law enforcement response to it, and the impact that these types of investigations, particularly child pornography, have on investigators. In addition to examining traditional strategies to deal with cybercrime, scholars have examined other methods as well, such as online community policing and working more effectively with other entities that police cyberspace. Although much of the literature comes from the United States and European nations, cybercrime is a global problem and scholars have examined how these nations’ law enforcement agencies have responded to cybercrime as well. Finally, not all of the literature in this field is sociological in nature; there is rich information in the forms of textbooks, books, and articles discussing digital forensics from a legal and practitioner perspective.

Overall Summaries of Issues Regarding the Policing of Cybercrime

A wide range of literature exists which provides overviews of the law enforcement response to cybercrime. These include introductory cybercrime textbooks, such as Holt, et al. 2018 and Hill and Marion 2016, which focus on specific types of cybercrime but also have specific chapters dedicated to law enforcement and governmental responses. Holt, et al. 2015 and Wall and Williams 2014 are full monographs on the policing of cybercrime, which allow for a more thorough examination of the issues. Articles and book chapters on the topic include Goodman 1997, Wall 1998, and Jewkes and Yar 2008, as well as more recent examinations such as Lanier and Cooper 2016. The Police Executive Research Forum 2014 report provides a comprehensive overall view of the issues of policing cybercrime from practitioners’ perspectives, while Steinmetz and Gerber 2014 provides insights from hackers.

  • Goodman, M. D. 1997. Why the police don’t care about computer crime. Harvard Journal of Law and Technology 10:465–494.

    An early commentary on why the police should care about computer crime and why they don’t care or have been slow to respond, such as: incongruence with why they became police officers, the challenges of policing computer crime, resources, prosecutors needing to take it more seriously, and the lack of public outcry. Commentary ends with possible steps to move forward (e.g., training). Suitable for all audiences.

  • Hill, J. B., and N. E. Marion. 2016. Introduction to cybercrime: Computer crimes, laws, and policing in the 21st century. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International.

    Textbook that has separate chapters dedicated to the domestic and international responses to cybercrime. Suitable for all audiences.

  • Holt, T. J., A. M. Bossler, and K. Seigfried-Spellar. 2018. Cybercrime and digital forensics: An introduction. 2d ed. London: Routledge.

    Textbook that covers different forms of cybercrime (separate chapters on each form of cybercrime), cyber legislation, and the challenges that domestic and international law enforcement have in responding to cybercrime. Contains separate chapter that focuses specifically on law enforcement challenges. Suitable for all audiences.

  • Holt, T. J., G. W. Burruss, and A. M. Bossler. 2015. Policing cybercrime and cyberterror. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

    Provides broad overview of issues pertaining to law enforcement and cybercrime, including the roles of law enforcement, problems with cybercrime statistics, police officer perceptions of cybercrime, attitudes toward training, attitudes toward the law enforcement response to cybercrime, stress and satisfaction among cybercrime investigators, and suggested next steps for law enforcement. Includes both summary of the literature and original analyses. Suitable for all audiences.

  • Jewkes, Y., and M. Yar. 2008. Policing cyber crime: Emerging trends and future challenges. In Handbook of policing. Edited by T. Newburn, 580–607. Cullumpton, UK: Willan.

    A chapter within an edited book that provides an overall review of some of the unique challenges and factors that cybercrime poses for law enforcement with a particular focus on child pornography. Examines trends, priorities, and challenges for the future of policing cybercrime. Suitable for all audiences.

  • Lanier, M. M., and A. T. Cooper. 2016. From papyrus to cyber: How technology has directed law enforcement policy and practice. Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society 29:92–104.

    Discussion of the positive and negative impacts of both traditional (non-cyber) and cyber technology on law enforcement. Appropriate for all audiences.

  • Police Executive Research Forum. 2014. The role of local law enforcement agencies in preventing and investigating cybercrime. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum.

    A report from an independent research organization which provides an overall summary of issues regarding the policing of cybercrime at the local level, including its impact, the measurement and reporting of cybercrime, perceptions of cybercrime, legislative and jurisdictional concerns, promising practices such as task forces and computer forensics labs, personnel development, network security, community education, and the use of social media for prevention and investigation. Appropriate for all audiences.

  • Steinmetz, K. F., and J. Gerber. 2014. “The greatest crime syndicate since the Gambinos”: A hacker critique of government, law, and law enforcement. Deviant Behavior 35:243–261.

    DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2013.823344

    Provides analysis of content from a hacker zine regarding the governmental and law enforcement response to hacking, providing insight on how hackers view the competency of law enforcement. Appropriate for all audiences.

  • Wall, D. S. 1998. Catching cybercriminals: Policing the Internet. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 12:201–218.

    DOI: 10.1080/13600869855397

    An earlier examination of the significance of cybercrime, law enforcement strategies to police the Internet, and the appropriateness of terrestrial forms of policing to virtual crimes. Appropriate for all audiences.

  • Wall, D. S., and M. L. Williams, eds. 2014. Policing cybercrime: Networked and social media technologies and the challenge for policing. London: Routledge.

    An edited book that contains chapters which examine how both the specialization of cybercrime offending, where individuals commit complex forms of cybercrime, as well as nonspecialists create unique challenges for law enforcement to address. Appropriate for all audiences.

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