The arrest of a man for piggybacking on someone else's Wi-Fi-enabled broadband connection is not part of a wider crackdown, police said on Thursday.
A 39-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday morning by two police community support officers (PCSOs) from Hounslow, as he sat on a wall outside a house in Chiswick, west London. He admitted to police that he had used a third party's unsecured Wi-Fi access point to gain access to the internet.
But this is not part of a proactive operation, said the Metropolitan Police. "This was not a strategic, pre-planned operation," said a spokesperson. "We're clearly not targeting broadband theft. The PCSOs saw a man acting suspiciously, and investigated."
The Met spokesperson denied that the arrest was a waste of police time and resources. "We're not going to ignore crime. If we find somebody committing an offence then we act on it, but this [crime] clearly doesn't happen in the hundreds or thousands."
On Tuesday morning the man was taken to Chiswick police station where the case was handed over to the Computer Crime Unit. The man has been bailed to return to the station in October pending further investigation, but may be let off with a caution, police said.
DC Mark Roberts from the Computer Crime Unit said: "This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people's broadband connections. To do so potentially breaches the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act, so computer users need to be aware that this is unlawful and police will investigate any violation we become aware of."