New strategy launched to tackle threat of serious and organised crime

A new strategy aimed at tackling the growing threat of serious and organised crime has been announced by the Home Secretary as the Government steps up action to clamp down on criminal gangs operating in and against the UK.

Dec 13, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Picture: MPS

The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that there are at least 59,000 people in the UK involved in serious and organised crime and that it costs the UK at least £47 billion each year, equating to the cost of building around 450 new hospitals or supplying around 730,000 more affordable homes outside of London.

The new strategy, which builds on the work already underway by government and law enforcement, sets out further action to eradicate complex criminal networks, including through the NCA, which received record investment in 2023/24.

It also empowers local forces to tackle these “illicit crimes” in their communities and sets out work overseas to prevent exploitation, such as modern slavery and human trafficking.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Serious and organised crime threatens our national security and prosperity, degrades society and causes serious harm to individuals and businesses up and down the country.

“Through investment in innovative and cutting-edge policing capabilities and tactics, collaboration with international partners, as well as creating new criminal offences, we will disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups and those who enable them.

“Through the strategy, the Government will strengthen local communities’ resilience to serious and organised crime, ensuring once a gang has been dismantled, the area does not become the target for another group to take its place.”

By rolling out the ‘Clear, Hold, Build’ policing tactic to every police force in England and Wales by next spring, the Home Office says police and local partners will be empowered to “clear” their communities of these gangs, prevent criminals from exploiting the vacuum created by the initial disruption in the ‘hold’ phase, and tackle the local drivers of crime.

It says this will stop further serious and organised crime becoming re-established in the future,  ‘building’ a safer community for the next generation.

This approach is already in operation in 18 forces across 31 sites to date. In Easington Lane, on the outskirts of Sunderland, there has been a 45 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour since January 2022 and in Barnet, the Metropolitan Police Service arrested 160 individuals for 272 offences, including murder, aggravated burglary and kidnap, in the first two months of the programme.

The Government is also bringing in new powers in the Criminal Justice Bill to ensure the police have the tools they need to disrupt serious and organised crime. This includes prohibiting articles used by criminal gangs, such as templates for 3D printed firearm components, pill presses and vehicle concealments, as well as banning electronic devices such as signal jammers used in vehicle theft.

The Bill will also strengthen Serious Crime Prevention Orders, making it easier for police and other law enforcement agencies to place restrictions on offenders or suspected offenders and stop them from participating in further crime.

The Government will also back UK police with a further £5 million to help them step up their response to organised immigration crime, including work by the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Unit.

Noting the international nature of many criminal networks, the strategy highlights the vital work of the new Joint International Crime Centre. Launched in April 2023, which combines resources in the NCA and NPCC to respond to the growing threat from criminality that crosses international borders and impacts the UK.

This involves coordinating and supporting the UK’s international law enforcement response, and hosting the UK’s National Extradition Unit, the UK’s Europol National Unit, and the Interpol National Central Bureau.

The strategy also sets out how the Government will build on these efforts to tackle exploitation overseas, including modern slavery and human trafficking, with a further £24 million allocated to the Modern Slavery Fund.

Since 2016, this has supported thousands of potential victims, as well as protected survivors from further harm.

The funding will support programmes aimed at preventing exploitation, and protecting victims of modern slavery in Albania, Vietnam and Romania. This includes a project in Vietnam that provides training and employment opportunities to individuals in country who have previously been victims of modern slavery in the UK, or those vulnerable to exploitation by people traffickers.

It will also support the Modern Slavery Innovation Fund, which is building the evidence base of what works to reduce vulnerability to exploitation and prevent forced labour in UK supply chains. This funding goes directly to non-governmental organisations in more than 12 countries.

As part of wider efforts to tackle illegal immigration to the UK, which has seen small boat arrivals decrease by more than a third this year, the Government has also doubled its funding for Project INVIGOR to £74.1 million for this year and next. This aims to target smugglers’ business model and relentlessly pursue people who facilitate organised immigration crime.

The strategy also sets out the Government’s efforts to tackle economic crime. Through the Fraud Strategy, the Government is working with industry, intelligence agencies and law enforcement to crack down on increased prevalence of fraud as organised crime groups exploit new and emerging technologies to target the public.

The Home Secretary has also authorised for the Director General of the NCA to be given the power to direct the Serious Fraud Office, in relation to matters of serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption.

The Government has already made notable progress on the Fraud Strategy commitments to tackle online scams by signing a world-first online fraud charter with 12 of the biggest technology companies to clamp down on online scams and fake advertisements affecting their users. Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google and others committed to bringing in a raft of measures to help protect people from fraudulent and scam content when using their sites.

The government is also creating new laws through the Criminal Justice Bill that prohibit the possession and supply of SIM farms with “no good reason” and provide law enforcement with a new power to suspend domain names and IP addresses used for criminal activity, including fraudulent purposes.

It will also be launching an anti-fraud communications campaign in the new year to raise public awareness on how to spot and avoid fraud.

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint leads for serious organised crime welcomed the new strategy.

Alison Hernandez, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Devon and Cornwall, said: “Never before has our nation had such clarity on how to stop, disrupt and seek justice on organised crime gangs and the suffering that they bring to individuals, families, local communities and countries. Building on the efforts so far to work cross-border and internationally will make it harder for criminals to exploit us all.

“The tools and techniques they use will hopefully be banned through legislation, the police will continue to create orders to stop them further committing offences, a continued targeting of countries that transport people and goods illegally and a recognition that fraud and corruption will not be tolerated.”

Kate Green, Deputy Mayor for Greater Manchester, added: “The Serious Organised Crime strategy is vital in tackling a wide range of serious and organised crime, including anti-drug, human-trafficking, child sexual abuse, fraud, economic and cybercrime that combine to cost the UK an estimated £47 billion a year, and untold human suffering.

“A coordinated multi-agency response, which operates internationally, nationally and locally, will help bring to justice the organised criminal gangs responsible and our communities safer for everyone.

“The strategy includes targeted outcomes to measure and chart its effectiveness. But PCCs will be concerned that it does not contain any new funding.”

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