The National Crime Agency (NCA) – dubbed the ‘British FBI’ – has officially become operational and will target some of the most serious and organised criminals in the UK.
The crime-fighting agency will take on many of the duties of the heavily-criticised Serious Organised Crime Agency – which is being absorbed into the new department – and lead the national response on combating serious and organised crime.
It has the powers to lead and co-ordinate the police and other law enforcement agencies to develop a clear, consistent and co-ordinated approach to disrupt serious criminal groups, both at home and overseas. The NCA will replace a number of existing bodies and it will be the first time a single agency has held the responsibility to lead the pursuit of organised criminals.
More than 4,000 officers will make up the NCA and be spread across four commands, organised crime, economic crime, border policing, and child exploitation and online protection – all alongside a dedicated National Cyber Crime Unit. There will also be around 120 officers placed overseas in 40 different countries.
Some of the main aims of the NCA include cracking cross-border criminal networks and gangs, combatting global cyber-crime, tracking down child abusers and uncovering large international fraud. However the NCA will not initially be involved in counter-terrorism, which remains the responsibility of Scotland Yard.
Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said: “The NCA is a UK-wide crime-fighting agency, which will have the capability to tackle serious and organised crime in areas that have previously had a fragmented response, such as the border, cyber and economic crime, and those where we need to increase our impact, like child protection and human trafficking.
“The NCA will be at the centre of a reformed policing landscape that will co-ordinate the fight against some of the United Kingdom’s most sophisticated and harmful criminals.”
Upon announcing the launch of the NCA, Home Secretary Theresa May said she believed the department can lead the fight in making Britain “a hostile environment” for serious and organised criminals.
She said: “For the first time we now have a single national agency harnessing intelligence to relentlessly disrupt organised criminals at home and abroad with its own warranted officers, and the power to lead officers from other law enforcement agencies in coordinating that activity.
“The new National Crime Agency will mean that there will be no hiding places for human traffickers, cyber criminals and drugs barons.”
However, the launch of the NCA has not been universally welcomed and the department has come under fire from Labour’s David Hanson, the Shadow Policing Minister, who claims the agency just “doesn’t match the government’s hype”.
“Most of the NCA is just the rebranding of existing organisations such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but with a substantial 20 per cent cut imposed by the Home Office on their overall budget,” said Hanson.
“The new organisation is not strong enough to deal with the exponential growth of economic and online crime. It will simply absorb the existing National Cyber Crime but with fewer resources.”