In Brief

Organised crime ‘killing more UK citizens than terrorism and war combined’

Police cuts blamed for rise as NCA boss makes rare political intervention to call for more law enforcement funding

Organised crime kills more UK citizens every year than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined, the head of the National Crime Agency has warned.

Speaking ahead of the released of the NCA’s annual strategic assessment into the impact of organised crime, Director General Lynne Owens warned Britain risks losing the fight against organised crime unless police receive significant new resources to tackle the “chronic and corrosive” threat from such groups.

The Guardian reports “in a rare political intervention, the head of an agency often described as Britain’s equivalent to the FBI reopened the debate on police funding, arguing that without significant investment the UK’s forces would fall further behind the criminals exploiting encrypted communications technology and dark web anonymity”.

According to the previous NCA assessment, there are around 4,600 serious and organised crime groups in the UK. The Independent says “the body coordinates the UK’s response to crimes including the trafficking of weapons and drugs, human smuggling, cyber crime and fraud” but its ability to do so has been hit by cuts to law enforcement.

The most recent Whitehall spending review last year revealed 44,000 police and staff jobs have been lost since 2010, when the coalition came to power and began its austerity programme.

Writer Misha Glenny, whose 2008 book McMafia was turned into a highly-acclaimed BBC drama and who will chair a panel of senior officers at the NCA’s report launch in London tomorrow, said the austerity drive had allowed powerful crime syndicates to flourish in the UK.

“In the past 10 years what is really striking is how this industry has grown inside the UK. Austerity has been absolutely critical in this, partly because of the reduction in police capacity but also because of the continuing increase in inequality. A lot of victims of organised crime tend to be people on the margins who don’t have a voice. When you get an impoverishment of the population, which is what we have had over the last 10 years, you get an increase in desperation, and that opens up opportunities,” he said.

Along with cuts to police funding, the NCA assessment will warn transnational criminal networks, the exploitation of technological improvements and “old-style violence” is allowing serious crime gangs to “dominate communities”.

In response to the calls, the government said it would “mobilise the full force of the state” to tackle serious and organised crime, as it set out in its strategy published in November last year.

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