Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced the creation of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) within the National Crime Agency (NCA). The multi-agency centre will plan, task and co-ordinate operational responses across agencies, bringing together the UK’s capabilities in order to tackle economic crime on a more effective footing.
Supported by enhanced intelligence and analytical capabilities, the NECC will draw together expertise from across law enforcement agencies, Government and the private sector.
The NCA’s deputy director Nigel Kirby said: “The NECC aims to bring together the knowledge and skills of the UK’s law enforcement agencies alongside those of the private sector. We will share information to develop understanding of the threats and plan a co-ordinated response to protect the public and UK businesses, not just by responding to criminal attacks on the system, but through understanding the emerging threats and seeking to be one step ahead.”
Kirby added: “Together, we will make the UK a hostile environment for serious and organised criminals involved in economic crime and increase the risk of them losing their liberty in addition to their criminal assets. Our shared endeavour will support legitimate business and public services, in turn reducing the costs and losses that threaten our prosperity.”
The plans for the NECC are currently being developed in more detail by a multi-agency team based in the NCA’s Economic Crime Command and including representatives from the City of London Police, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.
Metal theft falls after introduction of Scrap Metal Dealers Act
Metal theft has fallen by more than 75% in four years following determined action by the Government to tackle a spike in these crimes. A review of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which brought in tough measures to crack down on the trade in stolen metal, has revealed the number of thefts has dropped from nearly 62,000 per year in 2012-2013 to around 16,000 in 2015-2016, potentially saving the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed police-recorded metal thefts in England and Wales fell to fewer than 13,000 in 2016-2017.
At its peak, metal theft was estimated to cost the economy more than £220 million per annum, prompting the introduction of strict new licensing requirements for scrap metal dealers, identity checks for those selling scrap metal and the creation of a new offence involving those dealers purchasing scrap metal for cash.
Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said: “Metal thefts can have a hugely negative impact on victims and the wider community, and particularly so when items which form part of our nation’s heritage such as war memorials, the statues in our parks and town centres, or other sites of religious, community or cultural value are callously targeted. I’m extremely pleased that the Act continues to be a powerful weapon against this form of criminality and that the robust measures put in place in 2013 are working to regulate the industry and deter people from stealing metal or dealing with stolen scrap metal. We will continue to work with a range of partners in order to identify whether more can be done to prevent these crimes from occurring and also ensure that those involved are brought to justice.”
Response to increasing theft
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was a response to an increase in metal theft between 2009 and 2011. The sectors severely particularly affected by this crime included the utilities (power), transportation and telecommunications. In short, the security of our Critical National Infrastructure was under threat. Religious sites and churches were also frequently targeted, with metal often stolen from roofs and altars.
The purpose of the Act was to enforce stricter regulations of the metal recycling sector in order to make it more difficult to dispose of stolen metals and reverse the upward trend in thefts.