Government does not know why serious and organised crime on rise, report says

Serious and organised crime is increasing but the government does not know why, according to a report.

This type of crime is increasing, with at least 4,500 organised criminal groups active in the UK, costing the economy at least £37 billion a year, the Public Accounts Committee said.

In a report published on Friday it said: “Serious and organised crime is increasing but government does not know why.

“The increase is in part due to a lack of police resourcing; technology enabling crime to move online; and globalisation making it easier to commit crimes in other countries.

“But the department does not know how much of the increase is due to better recording of data or more willingness to report crime.”

The Home Office and the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) ability to understand the scale of the threat is “weakened” because they do not use data effectively and it still does not know how successful it has been at cracking down on such crimes because it has been “slow to develop a way of measuring the impact its activities are having”, according to the report.

It said: “Despite launching a new strategy for dealing with serious and organised crime in 2018, government does not yet fully understand the threats from serious and organised crime.

“It does not have the right data to measure success or the performance of the government and law enforcement bodies tackling serious and organised crime.

“These bodies are focused on pursuing criminals after the crime has been committed, but this has been at the expense of doing work to ‘prevent’ crime from happening in the first place.”

MPs on the committee found there was still “confusion over the role law enforcement bodies at each level should play in tackling serious and organised crime.”

The government only spent 4% (£84 million) of its total budget for tackling serious and organised crime on prevention activities in 2015-16, a fraction of the 79% (£1.8 billion) it spent on pursuing criminals, the report said, with committee members saying they were “not convinced” prevention tactics were “well enough thought through”.

The NCA’s revised estimate on the number of so-called county lines drug-dealing gangs in operation is up from 700 to 2,000 after bringing together data from different police forces, the report added.

The lack of certainty on what future funding would be provided and when was of concern, particularly with regional organised crime units.

The NCA told the committee “annual funding for its £10 million programme to disrupt online child abuse was at risk of not being renewed despite it identifying 129 million compromised online credentials that could be used for criminal activity.”

Among the recommendations made, the committee told the Home Office to:

– Set out clear plans for a rise in “effective preventative activity” and update on its progress within six months.

– Provide an update, alongside the NCA, on highest priority threats from serious and organised crime.

– Agree with the Treasury a way to provide “greater certainty” on police funding and how it is to be administered as soon as possible or as part of the spending review.

The Home Office said it would respond to the recommendations in due course.

A spokeswoman said the department was “determined” to fight such crimes and its current strategy sets out “wide-ranging action to ensure there is no safe space for these offenders to operate in”, adding: “But we are committed to enhancing our response further, which is why the Government recently announced a review to identify the powers, governance and funding needed to tackle this threat.”

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