Monday, 13 July 2009

New strategy to tackle serious organised crime

Plans to create a more hostile environment for organised criminals, seize their assets and shut down their businesses were part of a strategy to step up the fight against serious organised crime published by Home Secretary Alan Johnson today.

The new strategy, ‘Extending Our Reach: A Comprehensive Approach to Serious Organised Crime’, follows an assessment of how criminals are exploiting new global trends and outlines new approaches for the Government and law enforcement agencies.

Serious and organised crime is a multi-billion pound global business: trafficking in drugs and people, fraud and financial crime cost the UK Exchequer alone in the region of £30 billion a year.

Whilst the UK’s approach to serious and organised crime is one of the most sophisticated in the world, the threat is constantly evolving and global trends are creating opportunities for organised criminals that didn’t exist five years ago. In particular, there is an increasing link between organised crime and weak or failing states, where it easier for criminals to operate without detection or disruption and the use of newer technology to commit traditional crimes like fraud or theft by attacking IT networks.

To keep pace with the evolving threat, the strategy includes plans to:

* Create a more hostile environment for organised criminals by using tax powers to pin down elusive criminals, shutting down ‘front’ businesses like saunas and massage parlours used for criminal ends and seeking to block the use of mobile phones in prisons;

* Target the proceeds of crime by going after the assets of every organised criminal under investigation and rolling out police-led Regional Asset Recovery Teams to every part of the country;

* Investigate the UK-based assets of overseas criminals; and

* Step up the approach to international organised crime through better co-ordination overseas to target the emergence of networks in weak and failing states.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

“The UK is known by international partners as a world leader in the fight against serious organised crime. However, the threat continues to evolve and it is right that we update and strengthen our response to match it.

“This strategy goes further than ever before in taking the fight to organised criminals– from the hard-to-reach criminal bosses to the lower-level players that are harming our communities.

“Today we are sending a clear message to these networks that we are doing everything in our power to stop them threatening our safety, damaging our communities and subverting our economy.”

The strategy will see new regional asset recovery teams created to cover the South East, South West, East Midlands and Eastern regions, taking the total to nine teams across the country.

Today’s new approach will also arm the Government and law enforcement agencies to respond effectively as criminals seek to take advantage of the economic downturn through loan-sharking and counterfeit goods.

As well as a new emphasis on using all powers available to tackle organised criminals, the strategy sets out plans to create a new strategic body within the Home Office to drive the proposals forward, scrutinise performance and take the lead across the Government.

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