A strategy designed to protect communities from the threat of serious and organised crime has been launched in Wales by the UK Government, in turn building upon successful collaboration between law enforcement, charities and the Welsh and UK Governments.
Ben Wallace, the Government Minister for National Security and Economic Crime, hosted the launch event in Newport alongside representatives from the Welsh Government and Welsh law enforcement. All speakers highlighted the threat of serious and organised crime and demonstrated how trailblazing early intervention work in Wales is diverting young people away from being drawn into it.
According to the National Crime Agency, there are around 4,600 serious and organised crime groups in the UK. These criminals use violence and intimidation in communities to operate and prey on the most vulnerable in society, from victims of modern slavery and human trafficking to young people suffering from sexual exploitation and abuse.
A key part of the strategy is a pilot programme to introduce community co-ordinators. Funded by the Home Office, they will work with communities to build their resilience to this type of crime through early intervention work with young people and support for schools, parents and guardians.
Ben Wallace stated: “I see right across the national security threat picture for the UK: terrorism, espionage, hostile threat activity and corruption. Any one of these is enough to keep you awake at night, but there’s nothing that compares to the scale and harm of today’s serious and organised crime. Serious and organised crime is the most damaging and deadliest national security threat we face in the UK. It affects us all. High-level criminals operate right across Wales. They’re active just as much in rural villages as they are in our cities.”
Wallace continued: “It’s essential that we continue to invest in initiatives such as the Newport Community Co-ordinators. That’s why we were ambitious with this pilot and, seeing the successes here, are continuing to invest in the programme. It’s only by working together that we can be successful.”
Risk of serious and organised crime
Chief Inspector Paul Davies of Gwent Police, the Gwent community co-ordinator, is working with St Giles Trust and Crimestoppers on a programme delivered to all nine secondary schools in the city of Newport. This helps to educate youngsters about the risk of serious and organised crime and encourage them to report concerns. To date, the programme has reached out to no less than 5,400 pupils.
St Giles Trust and Barnardo’s are also working with children of secondary school age who’ve been identified as being at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime. St Giles Trust provides intensive and specialist support with a peer-led approach. Barnardo’s provides one-to-one therapeutic support to young people alongside activities such as sport to divert them away from a criminal lifestyle. Barnardo’s also provides support for their families. Families First, a Welsh Government programme, is also supporting parents and guardians.
Chief Inspector Davies explained: “Serious and organised crime is a complex area. Prevention and early intervention are critical elements to the effective management of this threat. Supporting the most vulnerable in our communities – our children – along with partner organisations is an important part of our work.”
Jane Hutt, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, added: “I very much welcome the launch of the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy in Wales. The Welsh Government is committed to making our country safer through joint action to tackle serious and organised crime and its adverse impact on communities and vulnerable people.”
Serious and organised crime is a complex and largely hidden problem affecting more UK citizens than any other national security threat. It’s estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion every year.
The new strategy – which was initially launched in London last November – sets out how the UK Government will build the country’s defences against this threat, track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The UK Government and law enforcement will continue to use all the levers at their disposal to protect communities from the threat of serious and organised crime, dismantle the highest harm criminals and their networks and bring them to justice. This includes using the capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies, sanctions and visa and citizenship deprivations.
Meanwhile, these interventions will also help to prevent vulnerable people, communities and businesses from being targeted by criminals, while actively supporting those who are.