What the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy means for vulnerabilities, prosperity and commodities crimes

By Johnny Gilbert

The 2018 National Security Capability Review (NSCR) put focus on serious and organised crime (SOC) in an effort to respond to the changing nature of threats. As the UK government prepares to relaunch its SOC Strategy, we’ve pulled together a group of experts to share our thoughts on key themes and implications. This article follows on from our first piece (Six things the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Strategy should address) to examine what a revised SOC Strategy will mean for the three main types of crime highlighted in the National Crime Agency’s 2018 National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime.

Countering prosperity crime and illicit finance

There is a growing recognition that prosperity crime and illicit finance underpins almost every other type of serious and organised crime as a key enabler for other crimes. It includes money laundering, fraud, bribery, international corruption and sanctions evasion, and cybercrime. We expect the SOC Strategy to encourage private financial institutions to do more to help law enforcement find and disturb SOC activity and outline further investment to facilitate this.

Illicit finance is a key enabler of drugs, cryptocurrency and child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) crimes, as well as other national security threats. And the techniques used by criminals continue to increase in sophistication with the rise of technology.

To tackle this, each element of the prosperity crime ecosystem – law enforcement, regulators, government agencies and the private sector – will need to work more closely than ever before. Government will expect private financial institutions to play a leading role in finding and stopping criminal activity.

At the heart of this collaboration will be improved processes and technologies that ease data sharing and analysis. The National Economic Crime Command and the National Cyber Security Centre show progress, but we expect the Strategy to outline significant further investment and activity.

Countering vulnerabilities crime

Vulnerabilities crime includes child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), organised immigration crime (OIC) and modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT). It has been stated as one of the key priority focus areas for the new Home Secretary and therefore is likely to receive increased focus in the new SOC Strategy. A comprehensive response will need the Government to gain further cooperation from private firms to fully realise the Home Secretary’s vision of “more effective partnership between technology companies, law enforcement, the charity sector and government.”[1]

The scale and scope of vulnerabilities continues to grow. The CSEA aspect alone has affected a much greater part of UK society than anyone could have imagined. Reported incidents increased 700 per cent over the last three years and UK police now focus 10-20 per cent of their resources on tackling vulnerabilities. And Home Secretary Sajid Javid has already signalled this is a personal priority.

To protect the most vulnerable people in our society, the strategy needs to set out the detail for how the ‘Whole System’ approach (government, law enforcement, the ‘Web Giants’ and civil society organisations etc.) will work. None of these elements can solve the challenge alone, so setting the framework for how they work together is key to constructing a sustainable response.

Countering commodities crime

Commodities crime includes firearms and drugs. While there will be less political attention on commodities crime, the SOC Strategy will still focus on it as its impact is the most visible and obvious to the public.

The level of firearms crime in the UK is still one of the lowest in the world, with offences accounting for less than one per cent of reported crime. But the Office for National Statistics saw a 27 per cent increase in offending for 2016/17. And the National Ballistics Intelligence Service has seen an upward trend in discharges since 2013/14.

Despite recent UK terror attacks changing the attack vector from guns and explosives to vehicles and knives, there’s still a threat of firearms being used in such situations and this is an area where the NCA and Counter-Terrorism Police Network collaborate most closely. The development of 3D-printed weapons presents a new challenge, so the SOC Strategy must set out a clear approach that can adapt to the changing threat and continue disrupting the supply of firearms.

This ability to adapt would also enable the law enforcement community to better respond to emerging drugs trends, such as the supply and use of Fentanyl, Carfentanil, Analogues & Precursors (FCAP), without the need for significant extra investment.

The opportunity to tackle serious and organised crime

Serious and organised crime continues to be a significant threat to the UK. While there are distinct differences between the three main types of crime, they are also very intertwined so addressing these crimes in isolation will not work. An effective strategy needs to outline the approach for strong national leadership and governance as well as an aligned response that bring the best assets together from across the UK’s law enforcement community, whilst amplifying the NCA’s intelligence and investigative capabilities with other government departments, third sector and industry partners. There is also a very clear common theme to improving the UK’s ability to Prevent, Pursue, Protect, and Prepare – we need to be better at exploiting opportunities. This includes opportunities for improved collaboration and opportunities for exploiting existing and emerging technology to respond to evolving threats.

[1] Home Secretary Sajid Javid, 3 September 2018

About the authors

Johnny Gilbert Defence and security expert Johnny works with clients to deliver operational improvements across the Defence and Security sector

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