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Serious and Organised Crime Strategy

Serious and organised crime affects more UK citizens, more often, than any other national security threat and leads to more deaths in the UK each year than all other national security threats combined. It costs the UK at least £37 billion annually. It has a corrosive impact on our public services, communities, reputation and way of life. Crime is now lower than it was in 2010,3 although we are also aware that since 2014 there have been genuine increases in some low volume, high harm offences. The National Crime Agency (NCA) assesses that the threat from serious and organised crime is increasing and serious and organised criminals are continually looking for ways to sexually or otherwise exploit new victims and novel methods to make money, particularly online.

A large amount of serious and organised crime remains hidden or underreported, meaning the true scale is likely to be greater than we currently know. Although the impact may often be difficult to see, the threat is real and occurs every day all around us. Serious and organised criminals prey on the most vulnerable in society, including young children, and their abuse can have a devastating, life-long effect on their victims. They target members of the public to defraud, manipulate and exploit them, sell them deadly substances and steal their personal data in ruthless pursuit of profit. They use intimidation to create fear within our communities and to undermine the legitimacy of the state. Enabled by their lawyers and accountants, corrupt elites and criminals set up fake companies to help them to hide their profits, fund lavish lifestyles and invest in further criminality.

Serious and organised crime knows no borders, and many offenders operate as part of large networks spanning multiple countries. Technological change allows criminals to share indecent images of children, sell drugs and hack into national infrastructure more easily from all around the world, while communicating more quickly and securely through encrypted phones. Continuously evolving technology has meant that exploitation of children online is becoming easier and more extreme, from live-streaming of abuse to grooming through social media and other sites. Serious and organised criminals also exploit vulnerabilities in the increasing number of global trade and transport routes to smuggle drugs, firearms and people. They have learnt to become more adaptable, resilient and networked. Some think of themselves as untouchable.

In some countries overseas, criminals have created safe havens where serious and organised crime, corruption and the state are interlinked and self-serving. This creates instability and undermines the reach of the law, hindering our ability to protect ourselves from other national security threats such as terrorism and hostile state activity. Corruption, in particular, hinders the UK’s ability to help the world’s poorest people, reduce poverty and promote global prosperity.