A Real Time Response For Policing The Cyberspace Criminology Essay

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Policing the cyberspace has remained a daunting task partly because of the socio-technical dynamism introduced into crime detection and apprehension on electronic platforms. While it is timely to adopt and create new laws that criminalize certain cyber activities, majority of the challenges in apprehending cyber criminals has to do with law enforcements' inability to react appropriately to criminal activities on the webscape. Cybercrime does not share some of the characteristics of conventional crimes and so cannot be combated effectively by using conventional crime detection frameworks. The cyberspace invalidates basic tenets such as proximity, scale and physical constraints on which conventional criminal apprehension schemes such as the Peel Model is built. In this paper, we propose a socio-technological model as a tool to mitigate the cybercrime problem. This model referred to as the Real-Time Response Model (RtR) offers an interactive real-time response platform that empowers users in the cyber space as the last line of defense. The framework provides for dynamic interaction between victims and law enforcement and serves as an aid in identifying, reporting and apprehending cyber criminals.

Keywords: Cybercrime, Law Enforcement, Policing, Social theories, Peel Model.


The definition of crime varies as much as there are differing perceptions of the issue. For our discussion, we view crime(s) as act(s) committed or omitted in violation of ethics, norms and (or) laws forbidding or commanding it and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction. These acts threaten social, economic, political and other social structure in a society. Crime could be against persons, organizations, institutions and states. Examples are theft, rape, assault, murder, fraud, arson etc. Crime has plagued societies from time immemorial and new forms of crimes evolve with social advancement. Crimes such as terrorism, espionage, spying etc can implicate a society's relations with other societies and create international disorder and tension. Law enforcement remains a potent means for maintaining order and dealing with the crime problem in conventional society. Cybercrimes on the other hand are crimes committed on the cyberspace using computer and networking technology provided by Information and Communication infrastructures (Chawki, 2009, Longe et al, 2010a). Observable trends has shown that law enforcement has not been able to scale-up to meet up with the new challenges posed by cybercrime to the well-being of various categories of users on the Internet (Brenner, 2007).

The digital revolution has dissolved physical boundaries of countries all over the world making those with inadequate cyber-crimes or Internet related offences laws to be vulnerable for committing such crimes. Evolving cyber criminology and conventional crime theories posits that through the Internet, criminals or persons with criminal intents have simply been given an electronic tool which increases their potential pool of victims and makes them all the harder for law enforcement to trace and apprehend (Clarke & Felson, 1993; Cox et al, 2009; Jaishankar, 2009).. Thus legal experts usually disagree on matters relating to the territorial jurisdiction for the trial of the aforesaid offences (Brenner & Koops, 2004). This situation makes the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of cyber-crime offences extremely difficult. The relative anonymity that the Internet offers also makes remedies against primary perpetrators much less effective than they are in the conventional crime scenario (Longe et al, 2009a). Thus, for example, it is much easier to obtain a relatively anonymous e-mail account from a provider such as yahoo, hotmail or Google for use in connection with illicit conduct than it is to obtain a post-office box in the offline world.

Our intention in this discourse is to critically examine the Peel theory of community policing in the context of evolving cyber challenges with a view of proposing a model that can better empower law enforcement to mitigate the cybercrime malaise. The remaining part of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 discusses social theories relating to crime and criminology. Next we examined conventional crime control. This is followed by section 4 where we focused on the challenges of fighting cybercrime with the Peel Model of community policing. In section 5, we present the Real-Time Cybercrime Response Model. The paper ends with recommendations for research and practice and conclusion.


With increasing ICT diffusion leading to routine usage and online access, opportunities for unethical behavior in cyber space will continue to increase. Unfortunately, Cybercrime seems to be yielding much to criminals all over the world so the malaise is not going to be curbed without some resistance from the criminals. Offline crime rates have reduced because the offline criminals have gone cyber. In fact, it is highly likely that Cybercrime and its perpetrators will continue developing and upgrading knowledge to stay steps ahead of the law (Longe et al, 2009b). Research must seek to understand cybercrime motivation, personalities of criminals and other extraneous factors that contribute to crimes in cyberspace. This position is supported by the routine activity theory which in itself is a subset of the rational choice criminology (Cohen & Felson, 1979). Routine activity theory posited that crime is normal and depends on the opportunities available. If targets suffer inadequate protection and if the gains to the criminals are worth the risk, crime will occur. Crime does not need hardened offenders, super-predators, sophisticated criminals, convicted felons or wicked people. All that is required is the vantage opportunity and crime becomes a routine (Clarke & Cohen, 1993). The routine activity theory have been able to explain the basis and motivation for such crimes as copyright violations (such as piracy of intellectual capital, audio and video files (napsterization, peer-to-peer file sharing), system intrusion, employee or insider attack, corporate theft and Internet crime in a general.

When attempting to deal with conventional criminal conducts, experts focus on two main issues viz the crime itself and the criminal committing the crime (Akers, 1994, Clarke, 1997). Criminologists focusing on the criminal are primarily concerned with the sociological factors that cause, or are correlated with a person becoming a criminal and engaging in criminal activities. The social learning theory (Burgess and Akers, 1966), social bonding theory (Hirschi, 1969) and rational choice theory are some of the sociological theories that address this issue. The social learning theory posits that crime increases when the would-be criminal socializes with and identifies with others engaged in criminal behavior. The theory suggests that the would-be criminal learns criminality from the criminal, because he/she wants to be like and/or imitate the criminal. In essence, a person becomes a criminal due to sociological influences wherein he/she learns to be a criminal.

In contrast, Hirschi's social bonding theory (1969) focuses on the influences that prevent an individual from engaging in criminal activities. It explains an individual's disinclination to commit crime based on their levels of attachment, commitment, and involvement, as well as their beliefs. Attachment refers to ties of affection with others, wherein a person admires others and cares about what they think about them. Commitment occurs when an individual has a vested interest in conforming to a socially acceptable group. Involvement refers to the degree to which a person is involved with conventional, socially acceptable activities. Individual beliefs with respect to correctness of social norms and laws influences behaviour. If one believes society is right about what is good behaviour one will be inclined to follow social norms and laws. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, cybercrime is becoming acceptable as a form of employment rather than as a crime because of the allure of quick riches it provides the perpetrators (Longe et al, 2009a).

Rational choice theory argues that people make a basic decision to commit a crime, or to not commit a crime, based on a simple cost-benefit analysis with respect to committing the crime. Simply put, if the perceived benefits from committing the crime outweigh the costs, then one will decide to commit the crime. The interesting thing about rational choice theory, however, is that research has shown that while choices are rational with respect to the decision maker's perception of reality, they are seldom objectively rational. Criminals often overestimate the benefits and/or the probability of reaping the benefits and underestimate the costs and/or the probability of experiencing the costs (Akers, 1994).

The rational choice theory can be extended to non-sociological factors that can influence the decision to commit crime. For example, electronic mechanisms such as surveillance camera can serve as deterrents because they increased the perceived risk of being apprehended. This is the basis of the situational crime prevention theory muted by Clarke (1997). The proponents of situational crime prevention theory argue that it is necessary to forestall the crime from occurring in the first place, as opposed to concerning themselves with detecting the crime or punishing the criminal after the crime has occurred. A couple of other social theories such as the differential association theory, the social learning theory, the anomie theory and the social control theory can also be used to explain causation and treatment in the domain of criminology


Crime control refers to a theory of criminal justice that places emphasize reducing crime in society through increased police and prosecutorial powers. This control is based on social structures that use general societal condemnation of violations and the violators. It also control conducts by exacting punishment, deter future violations by sanctions and new pronouncement appropriate to the instance or new instances or genre of crime and in some cases reconcile violators and victim(s). The disorganization of primary societies, urbanization and increase in the scale of crime rendered these measures inadequate in dealing with crime on a large scale. In 1829 Rob Peel came up with the current conventional model of law enforcement and policing.

Fig. 1: The Peel Model of Community Policing

The bane of the Peel model of law enforcement (Fig 2) is that it makes citizens assume minimal responsibility for crime and internal order. Citizens in the twenty-first century therefore see this as the sole responsibility of law enforcement agents and quasi-military police forces who maintain internal order by reacting to completed crimes (Brenner, 2007).

3.1 Characteristic of Real World Crime

Four characteristics of real-world crime shaped the way the way the Peel model approach the issue of crime and criminality (Fig. 2). These are:

Proximity between criminals and victims

The scale of the crime

Physical constraints that can discourage the criminal(s)

Patterns of crime with which investigator are familiar.

Fig 2: Factors that shape the Peel Model of Law Enforcement

These facts can be explained by looking at how conventional crimes occur. Violators or criminals and their victims are usually physically proximate in most occurrences. Theft and rape cannot occur unless the victim and the criminals have contact. The extents of the crimes are limited by the number of criminals and victims. Also reality and distance can impose constraints on physical human activities such as breaking a safe room in a bank robbery, increasing the exertion and resources needed to commit crime thereby aiding the apprehension of criminals and contributing to evidence needed for prosecution (Brenner, 2004). For instance, criminals can drop business cards or purchase receipts at the crime site unknowingly; they can even leave DNA evidence which can aid law enforcement in tracking them down. Demography and criminal profiling can contribute to apprehension and tracking criminals. There are certain forms of crime common to resource-poor environment or individuals while others can only be committed by economically vibrant and advantaged individuals. Spatial limitation is an aid to real world crime and the one-to-one relationship between victims and violators yields the assumption that crime is committed on a limited scale.

3.2 The Cybercrime Challenge

Cybercrime poses a lot of challenges to the Peel Model that has to do with law enforcements' ability to react to cybercrime rather than adopting or creating new laws that criminalize certain cyber activities. This is because cybercrime does not share some of the characteristics of conventional crimes that shaped the current Peel model of law enforcement. The cyberspace invalidates the very basic tenets on which the Peel Model is built. For instance in the cyberspace, the following statements are valid:

No proximity is required between victims and violators. These crimes are committed, in various forms and guises, across continents. Anonimity is a factor on the cyberspace that the criminal use to their advantage.

Cybercrime are faceless crimes unless the criminal chose to meet the victims as is the case with fraudulent cyber transactions, pedophiles and online pornography.

One-to-one victimization therefore becomes invalid as the crime process is automated

The criminal(s) can move from one location to another to beat the best Internet address protocol location tools or to avoid phone call traces. They can engage a proxy server to mask or masquerade their actual locations.

The criminal(s) can commit crimes against individual or individuals in multiple of places at the same time - therefore there is multiple victimization from multiple locations or from a single location (Fig. 3)

Therefore we have a one-to-many scenario in this case which clearly invalidates the conventional crime tenets.

These criminal(s) use computers and other resources in cyber space systems belonging to other unsuspecting users as bots, zombies or detours without their knowledge. They therefore criminalize their victims. This means victims can be turned to criminals even without their knowledge and further used to commit multiple crimes in multiple locations (Fig. 3).

Fig 3: Multiple Effect of Reach of Cybercrime

Based on the foregoing, we developed a theory of pseudo-resource ownership to explain why repeated victimization is sometimes successful in the cybercrime scenario. The postulate is that cybercriminals have the potential to defraud individuals and organizations of different kinds of resources without their knowledge while victims still have in their possession physical evidence that such resources are still theirs. Consider phishing or credit card fraud where a credit card information is subtly obtained or hacked and funds transferred in sequence out of such accounts over a period of time. Owners hardly suspect foul play since the so called cards and the security or pin numbers are still in "their possession".

Technology has produced a new social structure that flattens conventional crime structure thereby eroding the boundaries between internal and external threats. The response of law enforcement to conventional crime is subtly patterned after how the military responds to external aggression. Law enforcements effectiveness is aided by the stochastic but localized occurrence of these crimes. Unfortunately, technology, especially the Internet, now necessitates the need for a paradigm shift from policing concepts and models that focused on localized crime to those that can deal with crimes that radically deviate from the localized trend.

Fig. 4: Localized Crime Response

It is obvious that the current model of law enforcement cannot effectively militate against cybercrime as cybercrime conducts deviates radically from conventional crime in terms of its execution. Curernt response mode from law enforcement is localized and cannot scale in magnitude and pattern to the cybercrime scenario (Fig. 4). Anonymity, jurisdiction of law, the pseudo-resource ownership theory, global reach and multiplication of crime and its victims in multiple locations are challenges to the application of conventional policing strategies to cybercrime.


Since according to the Routine Activity theory, routine activities in conventional societies provide opportunities for perpetrator to commit crime, the following conditions must be met for crime to occur:

A Suitable target must be available

A Motivated offender is present

Lack of a suitable guardian to prevent crime from occurring

With respect to these tenets of the Routine activity theory, prevention of crime demands a capable guardian. This guardian in the context of conventional crime can be any of the following:

Security guards, Police, Para Military

Neighbors, dogs, watchmen

Keys, Fences, Video Cameras, Door alarms

Passwords, Fingerprints

These guardians can also be formal or informal, human or machine and must be capable of acting as deterrents. The Opportunity Theory (Felson & Clarke, 1998) posits that the opportunity to commit crimes is a root cause of criminal activities. It therefore propounds the reduction of criminal opportunities as a potent measure to reducing crimes. Interestingly, the proponents of the Displacement theory argued against these premises. They postulated that reductions in opportunity will not reduce crime because crime will be displaced to another location. This is because opportunities are so compelling that removing perpetrators will not reduce crime because other perpetrators will step in showing that crime is not always displaced.

For instance, in Nigeria Night browsing have been banned in Public Internet Access points such as cyber cafes by the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), the organ saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting financial fraud. This has not reduced the number of criminals engaged in advance fee fraud (Adomi, 2007; Oluniyi, 2009). The testimonies of pseudo success and the allure of quick riches obtained by these is as a motivation for criminally minded individuals. This is explainable using the Binding Theory and the Differential Association Theory ((Williams & Mcshane, 2004). Cyber criminals now resort to acquiring fixed wireless lines and modems from designated service providers to perpetrate cybercrimes in the comfort of their homes.

Cybercrime has introduced new dynamisms into the application of social theories. Opportunity to commit crimes are multiplied because victims and criminals are much more likely to come in contact with each other and quite often too. Unlike conventional crimes, the victim has to keep returning to scene of the crime and perpetrators can victimize from different locations. In this scenario, mobility is high both for the criminals and the victims. The challenge with using conventional crime models for these type of scenario stems from the fact that the Internet is open and not moderated. In the same vein, the Internet infrastructures are majorly designed to transfer data and communicate but not to examine content or filter communications. Existing guardianship schemes are reactive but not proactive and often ineffective in responding to new and unfamiliar activities. The bane of these measures is that users are also rendered passive and can only react based on programmed sequences. The need therefore arise to develop schemes that can overcome these limitations since apprehension depends on correct identification and timely reporting of offences in the online mode. As argued in Longe et el (2010b), most cyber crimes go unreported to law enforcement agencies. Increase in these activities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa may not (as is commonly believed) be influenced by social factors such as poverty and unemployment.


In the efforts to fight cybercrimes, our position is that users must also be empowered as part of the line of defense. In the Peel model this responsibility rests on the Police and other law enforcement agents. We propose a real-time interactive model that aids the identification, reporting, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals. Our model takes into consideration the fact that cyber crime does not share the common characteristics on which the Peel theory rests and that the criminals plug into the webscape through remote proxies. The model (Fig 5) shown below provides valves that assist users identify malicious intentions through a multi-level access control mechanism.

The cyber infrastructure is engaged as a mechanism that provides synergistic interactions between users and law enforcement. We envisaged that the user interface be designed to enable the users, Internet Service Providers and Law Enforcement interact in such a way that these parties can send report about suspicious traffic to law enforcement. The e-mail interface should have facilities that can automatically connect users to law enforcement to report suspicious cyber activities and report violations in real-time. Law enforcement will be connected through a distributed network such that cyber criminals can be tracked anywhere in the world in other to ensure a global response. The reaction to information input into the system will create an effective mechanism for tracking, identification and apprehension of cyber criminals.

Fig. 5: Real-Time Cybercrime Response Model

Hypothetically, users A, B and C access the cyber infrastructure from different locations. Law enforcement Agencies at Locations A, B and C (not necessarily the same locations as Users A, B and C) are directly connected to the different users logging into the cyberspace from these different locations. Mechanisms are provided in the use-situation that enables users to report any noticeable or suspected malicious activities to trained law enforcement officers. Responses are prioritized according to users' needs. Requests for attention and responses are Real-time where users can be directed on what to do and how to do it. This provides a repository of user requests and responses that can be used to train the Real-Time Response Model (RtR) engine so the system can be collaborative, adaptive and learn. Reactions to specific instances of problems or criminal activities are exchanged and fine-tuned between or among the responding agents at the various locations to produce well-directed and fine grained output. Responses are therefore based on identification, profiling and global in nature. As compared to the static online Peel Model, the mechanism provided ensure prompt reporting and responses which has hitherto hindered apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals.


Cyber crime has added to the dilemma of the Peel theory for crime control. Though another form of crime, it does not share the common characteristics on which the Peel theory rests. The ubiquitous nature of the web coupled with the cloud of users presents new forms of challenges to system security and demand a paradigm shift in the perception, design and implementation of measures for law enforcement in cyber space (Straub & Welke 1998, Schlienger & Teufel 2002). Unfortunately, law enforcement on the Internet have continued adapt its style to conventional crime control measures. To secure the Internet from cyber abuse law enforcement must be willing to revisit its mechanism for reporting, apprehension and prosecution in the light of emerging technologies. We have shown in this paper that the Peel model of community policing suffer some inadequacies with regards to fighting cybercrime. A Real-Time Response Model (RtR) is proposed that can assist law enforcement agents in their fight against cybercriminals. The Internet community and law enforcement must engage in a collective effort to curb the Internet of the demeaning crimes it is helping to fuel. We ignore these challenges at our own risk.