Organised crime in Britain evolving at alarming rate, official report warns

More than 4,500 organised crime groups operate in Britain, but there is still significant and avoidable shortcomings to the government’s response to the problem, an official report said Friday.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the British government recognises the seriousness of the challenge and is responding, but there are still significant and avoidable shortcomings to its approach to serious and organised crime which is evolving at a rapid rate.

Said the NAO: “More than 4,500 organised crime groups operate in the UK in changing and unpredictable ways, often using violence and intimidation.”

Serious and organised crime is evolving at a rapid rate, as criminal networks identify new vulnerabilities and adapt their activity in response to law enforcement action and the opportunities offered by new technology, the NAO report concluded.

The crimes also know no borders and many groups work in large networks spanning multiple countries, added the NAO.

Government estimates of the social and economic cost of serious and organised crime has been put at 47 billion U.S. dollars.

Some of the most harmful crimes, such as modern slavery and human trafficking, and sexual crimes against children, are increasing and becoming more complex.

There was a 36 percent increase in identified potential modern slavery and human trafficking victims from 2017 to 2018. While in 2018, there were 61,646 sexual crimes against children, 9 percent increase compared to the previous year.

In 2018-19 the National Crime Agency identified six types of serious and organised crime to prioritise: child sexual exploitation and abuse, modern slavery and human trafficking, organised immigration crime, high-end money laundering, firearms, and cyber-crime.

“However, between April and September 2018, fewer of these crimes were disrupted than non-priority crimes, such as drugs crimes,” the report added.

The NAO has called on Britain’s interior ministry, the Home Office, to accelerate its work to determine how it will measure the impact of law enforcement efforts on serious and organised crime.

The government also needs to improve its support to tackle the underlying causes of serious and organised crime and avoid wasting resources through the duplication of capabilities, such as surveillance teams across different law enforcement bodies, added the report.

The report said more than 100 government and law enforcement bodies, agencies and other organisations have a role in tackling serious and organised crime in Britain.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “The government faces an immense challenge in fighting this complex, evolving threat. While it has made efforts to step up its response, there is more the government could do to make its aspirations a reality.

“To deliver its new strategy, the government needs to better match resources to its priorities, improve its understanding of these crimes and ensure governance and funding fit with its ambitious plans.”

The NAO helps the British parliament hold the government to account for the way it spends public money.