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Data sharing to fight SOC

In response to the recent report by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Vern Davis, Head of Aerospace, Defence and Security at Sopra Steria, provides a potential solution to the danger of serious and organised crime (SOC).

In May, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the agency responsible for leading the fight against organised crime in the UK, released a report arguing the government needs to find an additional £3.3 billion in order to effectively tackle organised crime – an issue that is causing 'staggering' damage to the United Kingdom, according to the head of the NCA, Lynne Jones.

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The report outlines the forthcoming dangers of cybercrime, child sexual exploitation, drugs and other serious and organised crime and how these types of crime are currently on the rise.

The impact of serious and organised crime (SOC)
The report revealed that serious and organised crime currently impacts more UK citizens, more often, than any other national security threat. Indeed, not only does it have a daily effect on citizens but also public services, businesses, institutions, national reputation and infrastructure. As a result of this broad hold on the country, these types of crime are estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion a year and is expected to rise further if we do not act now.

For context, drug trafficking in the UK grew exponentially from 720 to 2,000 ‘County Lines’ drug supply routes in a little over a year. Meanwhile, financial losses from fraud soared by 32% between April and September 2018, with a total of 3.6 million incidents of fraud reported in England and Wales.

The statistics speak for themselves; criminals are getting smarter, bolder and more prolific. Consequently, it is imperative that the UK acts swiftly and decisively to challenge serious and organised crime - so how do we attempt to tackle the issue?

Restraints on the Police
The report highlights that over 180,000 known offenders are linked to organised and serious crime in the UK. Staggeringly, this is over twice the number of personnel in the British Army and almost 60,000 more than actual police officers in the UK – and this is a conservative estimate.

It is clear more resources need to be allocated to combat these crimes.  According to the report, over £3 billion will be needed to fight organised crime over the next three years. This includes the £2.7 billion for British investigators over three years and an additional £650 million for the NCA, annually.

However, while our forces are among the best in the world, it is no secret they are stretched and budgets are shrinking. National Vice-Chair of the Police Federation, Che Donald recently declared the loss of more than 20,000 officers since 2010 and slashed budgets were 'eradicating' neighbourhood policing, suggesting additional budgets within police forces is highly sought after and unlikely in many areas. So in lieu of these funding commitments, responses to the report have been as expected – where will the UK find an additional £3 billion?

The subject of police budget and how to get ‘more bobbies on the beat’ will undoubtably form a large part of the political jostling over the coming weeks, with Sajid Javid already setting out plans to recruit 20,000 more police and freeing up desk time to ensure an on-street presence. Yet while politicians decide from where to find funding, there is much that can be done using existing technology, processes and established partners.

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A solution?
Central to solving the crisis is to increase law enforcement efficiencies. Our police are among the best in the world and have regularly demonstrated their professionalism, effectiveness, and dedication to their role. However, in the UK alone there are over 43 different authorities and agencies working with domestic and international partners to combat the growth of organised crime, each carrying out diverse roles and functions and often using separate systems and disparate ways of working. As a result, these varied information systems given rise to substantial inefficiencies and blockages when it comes to sharing data effectively between forces.

In October 2018, the Home Affairs Committee published a separate report focusing on policing for the future that identified ill-communication through technology as a common problem raised by the police forces. In the report Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, stated policing continued to be "hamstrung" by “numerous different solutions to the same problem being generated across 43 different forces”. He went on to argue: “The sheer size, scope and complexity of systems, requirements and contracts across the current policing landscape makes this an extremely challenging task, with little real progress made to date”.

Therefore, in an ever-evolving, sophisticated online climate we need to provide our police forces and associated agencies with access to the tools and capabilities that can accelerate the delivery of intelligence across this complex ecosystem. More specifically, we need to establish one unified, standard platform for intelligence sharing in which all 43 police forces across the country feed into. Not only would a centralised platform drive efficiencies in terms of time and resource but it also presents a useful tool to tackle the networks of organised crime groups in the UK.

Consequently, to build the necessary infrastructure, government must partner with companies like Sopra Steria, who have real tangible knowledge and experience in bridging connectivity and data gaps between forces. With the use of more collaborative networks in the UK, data can be shared and distributed with ease, optimising police time.

I truly believe that if we are to effectively address the issue of serious and organised crime, we must bring our forces into the 21st century and ensure data streams are consistent across the country.

 

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