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Organised crime ‘truly staggering’

Serious and organised crime in the UK is chronic and corrosive, and its scale is truly staggering, according to National Crime Agency (NCA) Director General Lynne Owens on releasing the Agency’s sixth annual National Strategic Assessment (NSA).

She said serious and organised crime in the UK kills more people every year than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined. “SOC affects more UK citizens, more frequently than any other national security threat. And it costs the UK at least £37bn a year – equivalent to nearly £2000 per family. We need significant further investment to keep pace with the growing scale and complexity.

“Enhancing our capabilities is critical to our national security. If we don’t, the whole of UK law enforcement, and therefore the public, will feel the consequences. Some will say we cannot afford to provide more investment, but I say we cannot afford not to.

“The organised criminals of today are indiscriminate – they care less about what types of crime they’re involved in, as long as it makes them a profit. These groups are preying on the most vulnerable in society, including young children and the elderly – those most unable to protect themselves.”

Owens said the agency requires an extra £650m in annual funding. “Visible, front-line policing is vital to public safety, but the reality is that we will not defeat serious and organised crime with beat officers alone.

“Some of the capabilities we need are most effectively and efficiently delivered at the local or regional level. The NCA must deliver others on a national basis, providing the right agencies with the right capabilities at the right time to deliver maximum impact. The choice is stark. Failing to invest will result in the gradual erosion of our capabilities and our ability to protect the public.”

The 29-page document suggests the traditional idea of organised crime groups (OCGs) is becoming old-fashioned. Hierarchies and infrastructure of old-style OCGs have fragmented into more dynamic groups of younger offenders who use technology and capitalise on networking to carry out multiple types of crimes while still employing extreme violence.

Professional enablers such as accountants, solicitors and those working in financial services are increasingly facilitating crimes. And use of the dark web and encryption to cloak offending have also grown significantly, with crypto-currenices increasingly used to launder dirty money. The number of ‘County Lines’ drug supply lines from main cities into smaller towns has increased from 720 to around 2,000 in a little over a year.

The document calls for a system-wide operational response to SOC, taking in child sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking, servitude, fraud and other forms of abuse, and the supply of drugs and firearms.

Comment

For the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Beverley Hughes, Deputy Mayor for Greater Manchester, and Marc Jones, Lincolnshire PCC said: “The National Crime Agency’s report highlights the pressing need to tackle the scale of serious and organised crime across the country. These crimes have a devastating and destructive impact on people in our communities and have a significant cost to our economy.

“Any additional resource must be reflective of the fact that most serious and organised crime is dealt with at local and regional level by forces. The growing complexity of these cases are resource intensive so long-term Government investment right across policing is critical to ensure that forces across the UK can continue to tackle this threat. We have consistently called for a multi-year funding settlement to allow forces and the NCA to better plan and invest in a whole system approach to serious organised crime.”


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