The proposed central e-crime unit is being welcomed by senior police officers at the Metropolitan Police , who criticised responses to online crime by local police forces.

Local forces are being slated for their "lack of knowledge and understanding of e-crime" by front-line officers. Detective Inspector Brian Ward of the Metropolitan Police said that due to the traditional geographical focus when fighting crime, it has thus far proved difficult for local police to translate to the notion of e-crime because of its global nature.

The reporting of cyber-crime is currently not taken seriously enough at a local level, according to Ward. He welcomed plans for a national police centre to co-ordinate efforts to fight cyber-crime.

"Currently, if you walk into a local police station, your conversation will last 30 seconds and you'll walk out no wiser than when you walked in. It's the problem of lack of [local] police awareness of e-crime," Ward said, adding: "There should be a centre which runs 24/7 for the reporting of e-crime."

The Metropolitan Police is to set up an e-crime unit that will bring together all agencies that deal with crime committed online. It will act as a single point to collect and collate e-crime reports, share intelligence, co-ordinate e-crime responses and centralise standards.

In a partnership between the Government, business and the police, the unit will be operational by the end of this year. If successful, it is likely to be extended to a national level.

"We need joined-up policing," said Ward. "One victim may go to one local police station, but there may be 10,000 victims around the country. We'll take all of the notifications and decide whether to take any preventative action. We'll look at all of the intelligence and decide whether to investigate." Anna Lagerkvist