In 2018, organised crime accounted for more deaths than terrorism and any other threat combined and cost the UK £37 billion – a sharp increase since the last official estimate of £24 billion was published by the Home Office in 2013.
There are now around 4,600 serious and organised crime groups in the UK, according to the latest assessment from the National Crime Agency (NCA). So, it is no wonder that many in security and law enforcement believe more attention needs to be paid to tackling this type of criminality, rather than the intense focus on the terrorist threat.
Growing levels of trafficking
Serious and organised crime can mean many things. But the rise in drug, illegal firearms and human trafficking are particularly concerning – and, often, these activities are intertwined.
Demand for common drug types remains high, with 2,503 drug misuse deaths registered in England and Wales in 2017. The chemicals necessary for amphetamine production also continue to enter the country in volume, while street prices drop, indicating rising availability. Equally, the street-level purity of crack cocaine increased from 36% in 2013 to 71% in 2016, indicating a fluid supply-line capable of overcoming short-term shocks.
Most forms of illegal drugs originate from overseas and are trafficked into the UK via various routes including container shipping, yachts and small boats, vehicle traffic from Continental Europe, airline passengers and postal packages. Many street gangs in so-called ‘county lines’ drug distribution are also expanding from their home territory in major UK cities and taking over drug markets in rural and coastal towns – impacting on all police force areas.
Although it is impossible to know the exact numbers, human trafficking and immigration crime are also on the increase. Many victims are trafficked from overseas – frequently from Eastern Europe, South East Asia and Africa – by large organised crime networks which may have involvement in additional forms of serious criminality such as drugs and firearms trafficking.
Similarly, firearms are often concealed in vehicles and trafficked into the UK from Central and Eastern Europe – transiting via France on channel ferry and tunnel routes. As organised gangs find new ways and innovative routes to get guns past border defences, the UK has seen an increased number of illegal firearms being smuggled into the country. In the past, guns were often ‘rented out’ for use in multiple crimes. But now, the majority of guns used in shootings are new, clean firearms – which indicates a relatively fluid supply.
Resource allocation and new opportunities
As the threat from serious and organised crime has continued to evolve at a rapid rate, it has increased in both volume and complexity. Quick to exploit the rate of technological change and the globalisation, the individuals and networks involved in organised crime groups are among the most capable and resilient adversaries the UK faces. The threat transcends borders and many offenders operate as part of large networks spanning multiple countries.
Changes are happening faster than policing tactics can evolve – particularly aslaw enforcement’s ability to respond to organised crime has been hampered in recent years by budget cuts and large reductions in police numbers. But in order to tackle these types of criminality, greater resources are needed; for example, the NCA has taken the rare step of directing all 43 police forces in England and Wales to gather greater intelligence about firearms.
At present, the UK and its law enforcement agencies work with other EU Member States, using a range of tools and measures to sustain the cooperation needed to tackle serious and organised crime. However, as the UK exits the EU, criminals will look to exploit any vulnerabilities they can find in border and security arrangements.
A key thing drug, human and firearms trafficking have in common is the method in which the threat enters the UK. The UK, therefore, needs to maintain deep and close cooperation with European partners on law enforcement and security matters adapting to the scale and complexity of evolving threats. In areas such as the border, new opportunities will also need to be identified to help improve detection and strengthen security.
One such opportunity is to utilise advanced and rapidly deployable security screening technology such as 2X Systems’ 2X-833 walk-through metal detectoror range of 2X-300 vehicle scanners at key areas including ports, border checkpoints and airports.These products provide fast and easy imaging tools for detecting threats such as drugs, explosives, weapons, contraband and people trafficking – helping to stop the movement of organised crime in its tracks.
To find out more about 2X Systems’ products, visit www.2xsystems.com.