IT seems the only topic of conversation on the TV and in the newspapers or even down the pub is Brexit, so I wouldn’t want to disappoint you and write about anything else.

Actually, it’s not strictly true that all we’re talking about is Brexit because Blackpool FC have strung together a few wins, we have had the autumn International Rugby Union season, England are doing well in Sri Lanka so, for people who like watching sport, it’s true to say there have been one or two distractions.

The Northern Echo: Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton.

So back to Brexit.

I have been watching this with professional interest because law enforcement is now connected internationally more than ever before. Half of all crime in Durham is now on the internet – not all of it counted or even recorded. Any crime committed on the internet has an international flavour even if it involves two neighbours being beastly to each other on social media, they are likely to be using a social media platform based in Silicon Valley and any crime committed on the platform will, in part, be governed by the laws of California.

Most crimes on the internet do not have that relatively straightforward boundary of us knowing who the offender is, who the victim is and that both on our patch. Bots, a new word in our lexicon, refers to robotic algorithms designed to flood the internet.

Many commentators are understandably concerned about Russian influence in western elections: my understanding is that it’s Russian Bots that have been especially pernicious.

We do not concern ourselves too much with those political enquiries, our concern is that those Bots are used to steal money from people who live in Durham. Take 5 and Tell 2 are the catch phrases we would like to take off. I believe trending is the new way to describe this.

Take 5. When someone rings your telephone and you put the phone down, the line is not immediately cleared and if you pick the phone up straight away you will still be connected to the original caller. Scammers use this to good effect. If anyone purports to be ringing from your bank, then it is likely they won’t be, but many of these scammers will then say to reassure you ‘put the phone down and then dial your bank directly’. They remain on the line and the fraud will then be perpetrated.

Take 5 means go and put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and then ring somebody that you know, thus thwarting the scammer.

Tell 2. Often people are defrauded by people they know. If anyone is suspicious of anything, tell two people so that they might either be alerted or check-up whether the tradesman or caller or firm that wants to do business with you is legitimate.

British policing has worked hard alongside our continental colleagues to create the Schengen Information System. British police officers searched the European Criminal Database 600 million times last year. If we are unable to reach an agreement with the EU then that system will be turned off. What will it be replaced with? Good question. We don’t know. I can tell you however what Schengen itself replaced. We used to telephone other countries and it took a long time for information to come back and those enquiries were in their thousands and not their millions.

OF course, the internet has no fixed boundary around the EU and so the challenge for law enforcement globally is to ensure that we make the ether a safe place for the public and businesses to transact. British policing has used the focus of Brexit to sharpen our thinking in what international cooperation looks like. So, for example, it’s crucial that we have powerful links with the USA where so many major internet firms are based.

One bit of policing I’m particularly pleased with is the way we have used international cooperation to tackle and destabilise local organised crime groups. Most of the 32 organised crime groups which operate in our force area are involved in the drugs trade which, of course, is international in its dimensions.

We have disrupted travel plans for some of our local villains who were in the habit of obtaining visas to travel to America until we alerted the Americans that they were telling fibs on their visa applications. Those villains’ lives have been disrupted and their international connections weakened. Fighting crime isn’t all about arresting, prosecuting, convicting and imprisoning. Robert Peel, when he set up the police, talked about the absence of crime as the measurement of our overall effectiveness. I buy into that, but I also buy into getting under the skin of villains. I know one local crime lord who can no longer take his family to Disneyland. If that dissuades him from getting more involved in crime then that’s a good thing. If it doesn’t, at least I’ve made him think that the reach of the local police is just that little bit greater than he at first thought.

I just hope that the villain I’m talking about doesn’t find it easier to take his family to Disneyland Paris.