Criminals have “diversified” from risky armed robberies into online crime and trading commodities using cryptocurrency and police have become “heavily reliant” on technology to catch them, said Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher.
But the latest encryption software makes it difficult for the police to track users online, and the Met’s Flying Squad detectives have turned to tactics like going undercover and using informants.
“It might be that going forward we have to start re-establishing some of the older ways that we used to work and not be so heavily reliant on technology. If encryption for example is going to start causing a problem,” Mr Gallagher said.
“There is a sense in the organised criminal mind that they are anonymous on the dark web, but we still have ways and means in order to prosecute them,” he continued.
Among so-called ‘cyber crimes’ is the use of cryptocurrencies – virtual finance that gives users anonymity online – to sell drugs and weapons the on the internet.
Meanwhile, robbery offences in England and Wales fell by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2017, figures released by the Office for National Statistics show, before rising sharply in the most recent report this year.
Mr Gallagher’s comments come as the Flying Squad celebrates the hundredth anniversary of its foundation in 1918, when it fought armed robbery in London.
Since then, the squad has dealt with a number of famous cases, including the 1963 Great Train Robbery, a plot to steal the jewels from a diamond exhibition in the Millennium Dome in 2000, and the £14m Hatton Garden raid in 2015.
The team has been portrayed on both big and small screens as ‘The Sweeney’ – a nickname originating in the cockney rhyming slang ‘Sweeney Todd’.
From an original team of 12 officers, the Flying Squad will soon comprise 141 detectives, whose expanded remit will for the first time include kidnap.