At least one officer with computer-crime knowledge is to be drafted to each of the 45 police divisions as the problem grows. The Police Training School has started teaching trainee constables and inspectors how to fight computer crime. The computer-crime section of the Commercial Crime Bureau will increase staff from 17 officers to at least 20. With Internet use growing worldwide, the force needed to improve its ability to counter computer crime, said bureau Senior Superintendent Peter Else. Figures from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority show that the estimated number of Internet accounts grew from a little more than one million in June last year to 1.86 million by the year's end. The number of computer crimes grew from 25 in 1997 to 38 in 1998 and 266 last year. These crimes included unauthorised access, Internet shopping fraud, publication of obscene material and criminal damage. The bureau received 84 requests for computer forensic examination last year, up from 60 in 1998. Mr Else said other types of computer crime such as criminal intimidation and 'pump and dump' were emerging fast. In 'pump and dump', so far detected mainly in the United States, criminals buy junk bonds and shell companies' stocks at a minimal price and persuade Web site visitors to purchase them. 'Once their value has gone up, the criminals sell their own stocks for a profit,' he said. Since most crimes on the Internet could also be committed in the 'real world', users must use the same degree of alertness in the cyber-world, said Mr Else. With greater awareness and understanding, particularly by courts, about the seriousness of the problem, Hong Kong was in a position to tackle computer crime, he said. Through regular meetings with the Department of Justice, heavier penalties have been handed out in court cases. 'The courts have shown already that other legislation applies on the Internet as well,' he said. 'And, secondly, they're more than happy to give some fairly hefty sentences.'