Each case demonstrates how the tools used to fight crime and measure crime trends in the United States are outdated. Even as certain kinds of crimes are declining, others are increasing — yet because so many occur online and have no geographic borders, local police departments face new challenges not only fighting them, but keeping track of them. Politicians often tout crime declines without acknowledging the rise of new cyber crimes.
Many of the offenses are not even counted when major crimes around the nation are tallied. Among them: identity theft; sexual exploitation; ransomware attacks; Fentanyl purchases over the Dark Web; human trafficking for sex or labor; revenge porn; credit-card fraud; child exploitation; and gift or credit-card schemes that gangs use to raise cash for their traditional operations or vendettas.
In a sense, technology has created an extraordinary moment for industrious criminals, increasing profits without the risk of street violence. Digital villainy can be launched from faraway states, or countries, eliminating physical threats the police traditionally confront. Cyber perpetrators remain unknown. Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, ask themselves: Who owns their crimes? Who must investigate them? What are the specific violations? Who are the victims? How can we prevent it?