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Leading the UK's fight to cut serious and organised crime


Director General Lynne Owens joined the Home Secretary and NHS England's Medical Director in today's coronavirus press conference.

Thank you Home Secretary.

Criminals have adapted to our new situation but law enforcement is adapting just as quickly.

As the country pulls together, I want to explain what we are doing to keep you, and the nation, safe from serious and organised crime.

This is, clearly, a new environment for all of us. Officers across policing are doing a fantastic job engaging with the public, explaining and encouraging people to comply with the government guidelines to stay home, protect the NHS and to save lives. It is proving effective in the vast majority of cases.

But serious and organised criminals are looking to take advantage of these unprecedented times. It is showing them for what they really are – amoral, corrupt and exploitative.

We have not yet seen an increase in any form of serious and organised crime under Covid. But we have seen offenders continue to take every opportunity for their own gain.

I want to assure you that the National Crime Agency – which is responsible for leading the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime – is responding as quickly as ever to stop them. And so are our police, Border Force and other UK law enforcement colleagues.

I want to thank all of these officers who are working tirelessly to protect the public. They are ensuring there is no safe space for criminals to operate in

Let me paint a quick picture.

We are protecting you from offenders who are trying to avoid lockdown rules and carry on their illegal businesses.

We remain unflagging in our work to recover illegal guns. In the last month, the NCA’s work with police forces across the UK including West Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Thames Valley, Greater Manchester Police and Police Scotland, but others too, has led to 24 firearms being recovered.

Working with UK police forces and the dedicated Regional Organised Crime units and Border Force we continue to prevent the corrosive harm to communities from the scourge of drugs.

In the last month, UK law enforcement officers have seized over 360 kilos of class A drugs. As one example, the British Transport Police have made 70 arrests of people suspected of involvement in so-called county lines drug dealing. In another example, working with the Metropolitan police, we have seized approximately 20kg of cocaine and half a million pounds.

And only yesterday working with Border Force and the Police Service of Northern Ireland we seized 36 kilos of cocaine.

But the supply of illegal drugs is a transnational business. So too is our law enforcement response. Internationally, in the last month, the NCA has contributed to the seizure of in excess of one point seven tonnes of illicit drugs.

We are working to protect vulnerable children in the UK and overseas.

The Home Secretary has described some of the exceptional work we have undertaken in the past month, together with our partners. Following an international investigation, we recently arrested a British man suspected of possessing indecent images of children who was attempting to re-enter the UK from the Philippines.

We are working to protect the border.

We know that our joint work together with Immigration Enforcement is helping our partners in France to bring people smugglers to justice. An increasing proportion of attempts to reach the UK by small boat are being thwarted on the French side, with at least 30 people having been convicted.

We are protecting you from those that are preying on your fears and trying to take your money.

In addition to work highlighted by the Home Secretary we have 86 other instances where we are working alongside a range of regulatory bodies and Public Health England on fraud. We will take swift action against anyone unlawfully selling fake kits or PPE. For example a man from West Sussex was recently arrested by City of London Police and charged after being caught making and selling COVID-19 treatment kits to people in the UK, the US and France.

Online, in the last month, the National Cyber Security Centre, together with ourselves and City of London Police, have taken down more than 2,000 scams relating to Coronavirus, including fake online shops; malware distribution sites and phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details.

The Home Secretary has highlighted the collective national effort to tackle Coronavirus. But the public can help fight crime too. Indeed we have an ask of you. Criminals will try and exploit this national crisis. We are not trying to scare people at a time when many of us are already anxious. But we do want you to be aware of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself, and your loved ones, from harm online.

Firstly – protect your children online. We have created a range of material that will help you to talk to them, however young they are, and without frightening them. It includes guidance on how to identify manipulative behaviour. You can find a step-by-step guide at Think U Know dot co dot uk.

Secondly - Stay Safe Online: The new Cyber Aware campaign sets out six top tips on how to protect yourself online. These include creating strong passwords using three random words, regularly updating your devices and turning on backup. More details are on the cyber aware website.

Thirdly – Look After Your Money. Fraudsters have targeted members of the public by phone, by text and by email. They have used the current situation to peddle fake testing kits and prescription drugs. We are asking you to be vigilant for these scams. Be even more cautious than usual if you are contacted by unknown numbers and don’t open suspicious emails or their attachments. The police and banks will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. If you believe you are a victim, please report it to your bank and Action Fraud immediately.

While the nationwide restrictions are in place – and you are staying home to protect the NHS and save lives, we, the National Crime Agency – together with our law enforcement partners – are pursuing, relentlessly, the most harmful criminals, whoever and wherever they are – to keep you safe.

And looking ahead, we will help ensure that the country’s economic recovery is not subverted by organised crime. We will continue to protect the public, to the very best of our collective ability.

Thank you Home Secretary.

25 April 2020