After recieving some threatening emails nearly two weeks ago, I joked to a couple of people about that in my little sleepy suburb, somebody reporting threats from the internet to the police must be a very new thing, and would probably make head lines in the local paper. (And let me put this straight right now: I don't consider the threat itself a joke. It was quite unpleasant to receive it, and joking about any of this was really just a way to release some of my tension about the whole thing.)
It was just a joke.
The major newspaper in the Gothenburg region, Goteborgs-Posten, comes with a local insert every Wednesday for your particular area. Imagine my surprise when I saw what was the main story for the week in my area...
--- (front page)
Easy to trace e-mail threats
But only a few complaints lead to convicting sentences
Despite the fact that the woman in Sävedalen was threatened by violence through the e-mail in her computer, it's not certain whether the police will continue to investigate her complaint.
The police has no financial resources to follow up leads via the internet.
- It can cost us up to 1250 SEK ($150) to ask an ISP to follow up on a lead, says Gunnar Frej at Kortedala police station.
Another problem is that the IT-knowledge of police officers is many times inadequate.
A woman in Sävedalen recieved, during a night last weekend, several threats through the e-mail on her computer The woman, who is engaged in a movement, was threatened with violence by people who do not share her opinions.
The investigations unit in Kortedala does not want to talk about this particular case yet, but says that generally threats via the internet are very easy to trace.
This does not mean that the police automatically traces all threats.
- Unfortunately, it is a matter of money. We have to contact the ISP to trace the threats back. Some of the ISPs charge a fee for this, and that money the police has to pay, says Gunnar Frej at Kortedala police station.
Gunnar Frej is indignant, not only because finances determine how far an investigation can go, but also because the police force has so little IT education.
- We do OK here in Kortedala, but that is because of our own personal interests. But if you check into any police station in Sweden, you will find that it has stone age computer equipment and computer knowledge.
According to Gunnar Frej, it is not only the police that's lagging behind, but the legislation also needs revising. He can straight away recall two cases of threats or libel through the internet that landed on the table of the Kortedala police, and none of them led to a conviction.
Thus it is not certain that the threatened woman in Sävedalen will reach any success with her police complaint.
But there is still another possibility.
- That is if she herself contacts her ISP. If she is lucky she has a provider who does not charge for traces, says Stefan Kronqvist, IT police at the national crime investigation unit in Stockholm.
(As I have said before, I did ask the ISP of the IP address shown on the mails to trace them, but they (Telia) said they were not able to find anything.)