National Crime Agency: what is the 'British FBI'? Q&A
NCA will 'instil fear' into organised criminals and gangs, says director-general Keith Bristow
THE new National Crime Agency, dubbed the 'British FBI', has been launched today. The £450m body replaces the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and will take on a host of other responsibilities. So why do we need it and what exactly will it do?
What is the NCA?
The National Crime Agency is a new crime-fighting body that will be responsible for tackling major organised crime, such as drug trafficking, and complex international fraud.
Is it the first crime agency of its kind?
No, it is the third in the last 15 years. The National Crime Squad was set up in 1998 and replaced by Soca in 2006. Labour has, accordingly, been describing the NCA launch as little more than a "rebranding" exercise.
So, how will it differ from Soca?
The NCA will replace Soca but also take on a host of other responsibilities. As well as tackling organised crime, its responsibilities will include border policing, and overseeing the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a national cyber crime unit, an economic crime unit and the National Missing Persons Bureau. It is not, however, taking on counter-terrorism operations. These will remain with the Metropolitan Police. According to the Home Office, the NCA will have a more high-profile police-led approach than Soca. Its director-general, Keith Bristow, former chief constable of Warwickshire Police, has the power to instruct police and other agencies to carry out specific tasks or operations, a power that Soca lacked.
Why is a national agency needed?
The UK has 43 separate police forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police, Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. While local police forces focus on their own communities, the NCA is designed to look at the wider picture across the UK and abroad in order to tackle organised crime.
Who will work for the NCA?
The NCA has more than 4,000 officers, including police officers, customs officers and immigration security staff. Bristow has promised that his NCA agents will "instil fear" into organised criminals. The agency is also recruiting volunteers, so-called 'NCA Specials', including accountants, computer experts and lawyers to help it locate hidden criminal assets.
Who will it target?
The NCA will be pursuing the 37,000 people, involved in 5,500 groups, who are involved in organised crime that impacts the UK. Half of the gangs operating directly in the UK are involved in drugs and almost £9bn a year is reportedly lost through organised fraud. The agency will have the same powers in Scotland as it does in England and Wales, but will only carry out borders and customs functions in Northern Ireland – not other crime-fighting roles. ·