By Stephen White, Chief of Police, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
he IACP and Bank of America entered into a significant public-private partnership to develop leaders in the law enforcement community and the banking industry to respond to identity crime investigations and prosecutions, as well as to restore victims to their precrime status.
This partnership resulted in an award-winning Web site, www.idsafety.org, which won the 2007 Interactive Media Award for Best in Class. This site assists law enforcement professionals, the public, and the banking industry in understanding the challenges in dealing with and preventing identity crime.
Identity Crime Working Groups
While recognizing the connection between a restored identity crime victim with consumer confidence in the banking system and citizen confidence in local law enforcement agencies, the partnership established four working groups to address the following issues: the development of police leaders, the restoration of victims and prevention of identity crimes, education and assistance for investigators, and the development of banking leaders.
The police leadership group seeks to convince police chiefs to focus on the prevention of identity crime and the restoration of victims to their precrime status as a priority for their agencies. For the leaders of many agencies, this might require a sea change in the way they think about this form of crime.
The final outcome of an identity crime investigation should in most cases be a restored local community victim who has been assisted in consistent fashion by the police department, not just an arrest statistic with an improved clearance rate in the Uniform Crime Report.
Local victims of identity theft will see their police chiefs more often than might be expected, in the gym or the supermarket. Victims who have been served appropriately will readily praise the accessibility and assistance of their police officers because of the training and leadership their chiefs have given them by making the prevention and investigation of identity crime, as well as the restoration of victims, priorities in their agencies.
Likewise, restored victims who are directed and assisted by their banks make for more satisfied customers. This is the balancing objective for the banking group.
The investigator group is working with Bank of America to develop a request form to obtain transactional information that will assist victims and police investigators. This request form is currently being tested in agencies across the United States as part of the project. It is the objective of both the investigator and the banking groups to make this form standard in the banking industry.
The banking group, much to its credit, is exploring ways to assist law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of identity crimes and the restoration of victims to their precrime status.
By stepping forward with this unique public-private partnership with the IACP, Bank of America leads the way in changing how the banking industry assists the law enforcement community and educates and assists their customers to prevent and recover from identity crimes. This partnership will make for more satisfied customers and facilitated police investigations.
The ID Safety Web site is divided into sections to assist law enforcement professionals in understanding identity crime, with guidance and tools to assist investigations. Also available is a compendium of state-specific identity crime laws for review. It is a further goal of the leadership group that with a thorough review of the state identity crime laws that model legislation be developed, and police chiefs will be requested to advocate that their state legislatures enact the most effective model identity crime laws to move the United States toward a standardization of laws related to this crime. Visiting this section of the ID Safety Web site will allow users to see how well their states’ identity crime laws stand up to others.
One of the most significant resources offered on the Web site is a tool kit for police executives titled Defending America against Identity Crime: Identity Crime Tool Kit for Police Executives.1 The tool kit challenges police chiefs to assume a leadership role on this issue because of their unique position of influence in their agencies and their communities.
The main chapters of the tool kit are about leadership and management, officer training, agency partnerships, and community outreach. The sections are divided up with an explanation of the role of chiefs as leaders, an assessment of the current status of the user’s agency, and suggested tools for improving effectiveness and further information on each topic.
In the leadership section, there is an emphasis on the importance of officers “taking the report.” Victims of identity crimes are required to report the incident to the police and obtain a copy of the report to restore themselves to their precrime status. In addition, victims must couple a copy of this police report to an affidavit and start a process of providing each bank, credit card company, debt collector, or other business where their identifying information was used fraudulently with a copy of the police report and affidavit.2 Police officers need to assist victims readily in the first step of what is sure to be a marathon effort to restore their good names and credit histories.
The next section of the tool kit identifies training needs for police officers, such as a curriculum in identity crime prevention and investigation to be included in recruit and in-service training.
Because of the number of law enforcement agencies and the fact that identity crimes are often committed in one jurisdiction, the victim usually lives in another, and the bank or business in a third, the third section of the tool kit addresses the importance of building partnerships, with examples of successful joint law enforcement efforts as well as links to federal agencies and an explanation of the federal role in identity crime investigation and prosecution and assistance of victims. Because of the far reach of identity crime investigations, partnering with law enforcement agencies at all levels of government is recommended. Finally, there are examples of community outreach programs that chiefs can bring to their communities.
The assessment in each section provides a clear understanding of what readers need to do to improve upon their agencies’ abilities to prevent identity crimes and restore victims in their communities.
The goal of the tool kit is to enable police leaders to partner with their communities’ residents to prevent identity crime and to restore the good names of victims. The tool kit can be viewed online or downloaded; interested law enforcement personnel can also download an order form that will allow them to order hard copies of the tool kits as well as victim prevention and recovery tool kits from the IACP.
A Vital Partnership
The Federal Trade Commission 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report found that there were 8.3 million victims of identity theft in 2005.3 This significant number of victims in itself highlights the importance of the IACP/Bank of America partnership in developing leaders in the law enforcement community and the banking industry to respond to identity crime investigations and restore victims to their precrime status. Safe and secure residents who are consistently assisted by accessible police officers and who are educated and assisted by Bank of America will make for more satisfied customers. Together, the IACP and Bank of America will move the law enforcement community and the banking industry into a state of cooperation and influence not often seen in the United States. Much to Bank of America’s credit, chiefs are encouraged to be involved in this partnership.
Chiefs and their officers should familiarize themselves with all that the www.idsafety.org Web site has to offer to be leaders in the fight against identity crime. ■
1The tool kit is available at http://www.idsafety.org/files/pdfs/chiefs_toolkit.pdf.
2A link to an affidavit accepted by most businesses can be found on the Federal Trade Commission Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html.
3Federal Trade Commission 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report, prepared by Synovate, November 2007, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2007/11/SynovateFinalReportIDTheft2006.pdf (accessed July 30, 2008).