Municipalities should do more to tackle cybercrime. After all, it claims many victims and the impact on victims is often significant. Cybercrime should be seen as a common and ‘high-impact crime’. This would make tackling the problem a new element in the tasks of municipalities.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity for criminals to steal data and money online (Spithoven, 2020). According to the World Economic Forum (2019), cybercrime is therefore among the top five global problems. In 2021, global financial damage was an estimated six trillion dollars. To put this damage into perspective, this is comparable or even greater than the damage caused by the global drug trade (Ahamad, 2020).

Cybercrime victim rates are also significant in the Netherlands. In 2021, 17% of Dutch people aged 15 and over — almost 2.5 million people — said they were victims of online crime (CBS, 2022). However, the impact of being a victim of cybercrime goes beyond financial damage. Indeed, victims of online crime have the same need as victims of offline crime: emotional and financial help and the need for information. But these victims are still mostly out in the digital cold (Leukfeldt, Notté and Malsch, 2020). 

Cyber Resilience

In recent years, much has already been done about cyber resilience at the national and regional levels. This ranges from the formation of the High Tech Crime Team at the National Police and the National Cybersecurity Centre at the national level to cybercrime teams in the police at the unit level and various initiatives within various (vital) sectors.

However, the cybercrime problem is broader and the entire security complex in the Netherlands still needs to adapt to the changed, digital context. We are still looking for opportunities and responsibilities, particularly at the local level. Dutch municipalities potentially play a larger role in this than they might expect. In this contribution, we provide an insight into this role and take stock of how this practice is doing today.

What can municipalities do?

To answer this question, a consortium of 12 municipalities, four regional networks, two universities of applied sciences and the NSCR started practice-oriented research in 2020. Since the 1990s, municipalities have played an important coordinating and preventive role in tackling common crimes such as theft, destruction and vandalism and high-impact crime such as home burglary, robbery and street robbery (Prins and Cachet, 2011; VNG, 2021). And that is precisely the role that they can play in tackling cybercrime as well (see Leukfeldt, Spithoven and Misana-ter Huurne, 2020). More specifically, this concerns:

  • Encouraging residents to file police reports and report when they are victims of cybercrime 
  • Monitoring developments in perpetrators and victims of cybercrime 
  • Informing specific target groups about specific forms of cybercrime that they may be victims of 

In addition, municipalities can — through the mayor's position of authority vis-à-vis the police — work with the police and other partners to:

  • detect, and
  • disrupt local perpetrators, perpetrator groups and cybercriminal networks. 

Given the extent and impact on victims, we advocate seeing cybercrime as a common and high-impact crime and thus counting it as a new element in municipalities’ existing tasks.

Read more:
Secondant: Municipalities are suffering from digital cold feet (