BLOG: “Serious and organised crime harms us all”
Newly appointed Joint APCC Lead for Serious and Organised Crime and Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Kate Green, discusses importance of multi-agency approach in tackling serious and organised crime. Kate Green shares the role with Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones.
Most people believe serious and organised crime does not, and will not, impact them. In reality, the root causes and the effects of some of the most serious crimes are embedded and felt in all of our communities. Drug dealing, money laundering and targeted attacks on individuals are among the more widely understood signs of organised crime. But would you realise that reports of anti-social behaviour outside a block of flats are actually the result of a vulnerable person having their home taken over by organised criminals, otherwise known as cuckooing? Or that the shop selling knock-off designer bags and trainers on your high street is part of a complex and illegal trading network, delivering enormous profits to a wealthy criminal hidden far from the scene in his comfortable home and who isn’t paying his taxes?
Serious and organised crime harms us all. Large urban cities may generate high volumes, but in turn, they often export it to rural areas, for example through county lines or people trafficked into modern slavery. So, it is incredibly important that as Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Deputy Mayors we have sight of the issues and that we play our full part in supporting the ecosystem to tackle them, including supporting and scrutinising the performance of our Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCU).
Serious and organised crime is complex and poses many risks to different parts of our society, especially to the most vulnerable. One of the biggest challenges is that in many areas it has been going on for far too long with some people either not realising that a crime is being committed or that they are a victim, or that their behaviour is contributing to the crime. In Cheetham Hill in Manchester, we see local people buying fake products – knowingly or unknowingly perpetuating the cycle of organised crime. That’s why one of my priorities is to raise awareness of the different forms that serious and organised crime can take, ensure communities know what to look out for and what to do if they are suspicious.
Organised crime often operates in the same way a business does. Someone at the top like a CEO, who will benefit financially from the activity that operates down the chain. Those at the bottom of this chain can include children, young people and victims of modern slavery, being exploited and criminalised, whilst those at the top use sophisticated methods, including ever evolving technology, to evade detection. And you’ll have professionals who facilitate this activity, who enable these illicit financial gains, for example by laundering money.
All this plays out in our communities, where most of the criminality actually takes place, harming public safety and quality of life. So, we need a twin track approach, with police in our neighbourhoods responding to the concerns of our residents and being seen to act, while dealing with the most significant criminals who are not those that are seen on street corners.
The most significant risk is the assumption that tackling serious and organised crime is solely police work. Tackling serious and organised crime and its effects requires a whole-system partnership approach to bring together many different agencies, working together to disrupt and dismantle individuals and networks committing serious crime – and where possible prevent it from happening in the first place. This is what we are doing in Greater Manchester through our Challenger programme, bringing together police, immigration enforcement, trading standards, fire safety officers, HMRC officials and others. However, it’s vital that the resources and capacity are available to enable police forces and partners to do this work. We need to be in a position where all partners are enabled to take the appropriate action in the most informed way to tackle those truly responsible.
As PCCs and Deputy Mayors, we have a clear responsibility to recognise the cross-cutting nature of serious and organised crime and the way in which it manifests itself in communities. We are responsible for helping to tackle it on a daily basis by funding support for victims, by developing partnerships and by engaging with and influencing the criminal justice system.
The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) also offers an important tool for the disruption of organised crime. It generates funds that can be reinvested into supporting communities to address crime and anti-social behaviour while depriving those at the top of the chain, who are taking the biggest gains from illegal activity, from benefiting from the fruits of their criminality. This is the biggest deterrent of all; top criminals may not be deterred by a prison sentence (many will continue to run their ‘business’ from their prison cells), but if they can’t get their hands on the vast sums of cash this kind of crime generates, there’s no point in continuing with it. That’s why my PCC colleagues and I will be taking an increasingly active role in ensuring police forces take full advantage of this legislation.
As APCC Joint National Lead in this area, I look forward to working with our national partners in this space so that we can improve our response to key threats including Western Balkan criminality, drugs, firearms, modern slavery and human trafficking, and tackle the harm that results from them in all of our communities.