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HLN Meets: Charlotte Knill and Claire Vandenbroecke, cybercrime-fighters at Northumbria Police

They work as part of the Northumbria Police Cybercrime team, helping businesses to keep themselves safe from crimes committed using computers and the internet.

Written by High Life North
Published 11.12.2020

By Helen Bowman

Charlotte Knill and Claire Vandenbroecke work as part of the Northumbria Police Cybercrime team, helping businesses to keep themselves safe from crimes committed using computers and the internet.

Following our recent series of articles around Cybercrime, we chatted with Claire and Charlotte to find out how they ended up working in such a niche area.

Tell us a bit about your role in the Police

Charlotte (left): We both help victims of cybercrime who have reported an incident to Action Fraud, but we also have another area of cybercrime which we take the lead on separately. I primarily focus on Cyber Choices, which helps young people understand the dangers of becoming involved in cyber-dependent crime and encourages them to use skills such as programming and coding (or their general interest in technology) safely and legally. There are so many job opportunities out there in the tech industry that need people with these skills and knowledge to function safely in the digital world.

Claire (right): My work involves supporting local businesses and sole traders to educate them on the dangers of cybercrime and to help them protect their devices, systems and networks from online theft and attacks. The support we provide is free of charge and helps businesses prepare for, and recover from, cyberattacks.

How did you both get in to policing?

Charlotte: As part of my Digital Forensics degree at the University of Sunderland, I spent my placement year working with Northumbria Police. It was a place I wanted to work from a young age, either as a police officer or as a civilian. The placement year gave me the industry experience and knowledge to help me apply for a role within the force after I graduated.

Claire: For me it was by chance actually! I was working for a media company reporting traffic and travel news on the radio, and one of my responsibilities was to contact local police force control rooms for updates on any incidents on the roads. One of my contacts happened to mention that they were recruiting for call-takers and suggested I applied. It sounded like such an interesting role and I was looking for a change of direction in my career so I decided to apply and was successful!

How did you both end up working in cyber security?

Charlotte: For me it was a natural progression from my interest in technology, which I’ve had since university. The role I do now came up while I was working in another department within Northumbria Police and I thought I’d like to give it a go, with it being a constantly-evolving area.

Claire: My background is in creative and digital media, having studied Film and Media at University, and I initially worked with various media production companies for some years after graduating. More recently, while working as a call-taker for the police, I saw this unique role advertised and thought it sounded like a great opportunity to put my interest and experience in creative technology to good use.

How do you both deal with being in quite a male-dominated industry? Are things changing?

Charlotte: In my experience, there has always been a balance in terms of males and females working in the industry, with everyone being supportive and helpful along the way.

Claire: My counterparts in Durham and Cleveland Police are all female, as are the DCI and DI who head up the Northumbria Police Crime Department (which my team sits in) so I certainly don’t feel outnumbered in any way! Each police force in England and Wales now has a specialist cybercrime team which is part of a national project dedicated to tackling the ever-growing threat of cybercrime. The project is very inclusive and supportive, encouraging the sharing of ideas and best practice and, in my experience, gender inequality has never been an issue.

How do you find working in the Northumbria Police Force area – is there more or less cybercrime in the North East than in other places in the UK?

Charlotte: Cybercrime is an unpredictable trend, so it’s hard to say for certain which parts of the UK see more cybercrime than others.

Claire: The figures we receive can never be completely accurate, as we know a lot of people and businesses don’t report when they’ve been a victim of a cybercrime. This is one of the reasons why we’re doing these articles – to help spread the word that help and support is out there!

And just to finish us off, where do you both like to visit, eat, drink and relax in the North East?

Charlotte: I love visiting more of the rural parts of the North East for some fresh, rural air. It helps clear the mind and you just can’t beat that countryside smell!

Claire: Tynemouth is one of my favourite places to visit when I want to get out of the city to unwind and relax with a nice walk along the beach and some fish and chips! Having said that, Newcastle City Centre is a hub of activity and I always enjoy a nice evening eating out there.

To find out more about cybercrime in the North East or to seek advice and help, contact the Northumbria Police CyberCrime department on [email protected]

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