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Re-territorialising the policing of cybercrime in the post-COVID-19 era: towards a new vision of local democratic cyber policing

Shane Horgan (Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)
Ben Collier (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Richard Jones (School of Law, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Lynsay Shepherd (Abertay University, Dundee, UK)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 18 January 2021

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021




The purpose of this study is to develop the theorisation of cybercrime in the context of the pandemic, and to sketch out a vision of how law enforcement might respond to a transformed landscape of online crime and offending.


This conceptual paper draws on empirical evidence from a range of sources (including official statistics) and the existing research literature, and revisits routine activities theory to illuminate the way that cybercrime patterns are being transformed by the pandemic.


The pandemic is reshaping the routine activities of societies en masse, leading to changes in the ecology of risk and opportunity for cybercrime. There is evidence of a large increase in the prevalence of cybercrime as a result, yet much of this has a paradoxically “local” character.

Practical implications

The authors identify specific practical implications for law enforcement, namely, that the role of local police in policing cybercrime should be re-envisioned, with a democratic, community-oriented approach at its heart.


The theoretical perspective outlined is a novel and critical development of a well-established framework, opening up new paths to the theorisation of cybercrime and cybercrime policing. The authors’ suggestions for practitioners have the potential for direct impact, both at the level of practice and in terms of broader imaginaries and organisation of police and policing.



The authors would like to thank Dr Liz Aston and the Scottish Institute of Policing Research for commissioning the research which led to this article, and the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre for access to their data sets. They would additionally like to thank Dr Jamie Buchan for comments on drafts of the paper.Funding: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) award numbers “EP/M020320/1 and EP/V026178”.


Horgan, S., Collier, B., Jones, R. and Shepherd, L. (2021), "Re-territorialising the policing of cybercrime in the post-COVID-19 era: towards a new vision of local democratic cyber policing", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 222-239.



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