Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Crime fighters should catch villains, not rattle the begging bowl


YOU would have thought that the National Crime Agency would come to our attention in its efforts to fight crime, but instead it is lobbying the public for money and respect.

The NCA is an unambiguous poisoned child of Theresa May’s administration. Formed in 2013, it replaced the Serious Organised Crime Agency, absorbed the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, absorbed the responsibilities of the National Policing Improvement Agency, and absorbed some responsibilities for border policing from the Border Agency (which was degraded to Border Force).

Clearly, the NCA is an unprecedentedly authoritative and responsible agency in the countering of crime in Britain. It was marketed as Britain’s equivalent to the FBI. If only it were . . .

Then crime exploded to record levels – particularly violent crime. Good times! Well done, NCA.

Well done also the Metropolitan Police, which can’t control crime in London, and still retains national responsibilities for counter-terrorism and VIP protection. So what’s the point of a national agency, marketed like the FBI, if a regional police force retains its national responsibilities, at a time when it can’t handle its regional responsibilities?

Well, perhaps the NCA’s lobbying this week might include some insights or suggestions of relevance. Fat chance.

Instead, it used its annual ‘National Strategic Assessment’ as an opportunity to lobby for more money. When the FBI produces its annual crime reports, the statistics are complete and the analysis is objective. The NCA’s product is short on statistics, long on suggestion, often incomprehensible, politicised, and far from analytical. It is replete with platitudes and cop-outs (pardon the pun), such as ‘a backdrop of continuing growth in volume and complexity’. This ‘complexity’ is never defined. The ‘volume’ is never quantified. Most of the writing is emotive and suggestive – the report is not an analytical product.

The NCA’s ‘National Strategic Assessment’ is glossy – it looks like a party manifesto. Its Director-General’s public briefing – at a podium, in front of a banner – looked like a political rally.

She (Lynne Owens) was full of pathos about how crime is affecting all of ‘us’ and that ‘we’ must act. She made promises that ‘we will target’ the criminals, and industry ‘must do more’. She listed big numbers for the costs of crime, but without any explanations for the ‘growth’ or the ‘rise’. She did not explain how the NCA is going to improve, except to conclude with an eye-watering call for its budget to be more than doubled – from £424million to £1billion (a conveniently round number). This call is not accounted, but she has the audacity to continue like Tony Blair at his lip-trembling worst: ‘This choice is stark. Failing to invest will result in the gradual erosion of our capabilities and ability to protect the public.’ Her speech concluded with textbook reductionism: ‘Each of us is affected by serious and organised crime in some way. Each and every one of us has a role to play in fighting it. Thank you.’

She went into the newsroom of Channel 4 to say similar, without receiving any hard questions (predictably).

She and the report really like the word ‘threat’. Perhaps this is on a spin doctor’s advice: ‘threat’ is a good word to persuade the public to respond. It betrays an ignorance in the NCA of how to analyse risk properly. The NCA and Lynne Owens are using ‘threat’ interchangeably with ‘risk’, but a threat is the agent or actor, such as a particular organised criminal group (OCG), while the risk is the uncertain returns from that actor. Conflating the two is a lay-person’s mistake.

Even stranger are the sly references to Brexit:

‘With the UK’s exit from the EU, the nature of change at the border will depend on the terms agreed. However, OCGs will seek to exploit any perceived vulnerabilities at points of entry, whilst EU exit-related uncertainty is likely to provide opportunities for cyber fraud and laundering criminality. From a law enforcement perspective, changing access conditions are likely to make cross-border collaboration with EU partners more challenging.’

This quote is typical of the convoluted writing: it’s suggestive, it’s spin, but it’s trying to be subtle. It’s nonsense. Regaining sovereignty over borders will help British law enforcement, particularly the policing of borders, which is part of NCA’s responsibility. The EU and Britain have no interest in making ‘cross-border collaboration more challenging’. The NCA is crying foul.

Here’s another choice quote for you:

‘It is a realistic possibility [what is an ‘unrealistic possibility’, I want to ask?] that the UK’s exit from the EU will impact the prevalence of bribery and corruption over the next five years, as UK companies potentially come into greater contact with corrupt markets.’

This is the statement that Channel 4 chose to close its report.

How tangential can the NCA get in its hysteria? This quote is not explicated, but presumably the NCA’s assumption is that British business will find markets outside the EU (the horror!) that are less regulated. Tangential, indeed. And not a whisper about those corrupt peddlers of diesel cars with faked environmental claims, or horse meat traded in Britain as beef, with the complicity of an EU that is over-regulated but under-enforced.

The NCA should be investigating its own responsibilities in the failure to control crime. It should be drawing attention to the colossal resources wasted on policing ‘hate crimes,’ the Crown Prosecution Service’s politicised agendas to convict men falsely accused of rape while ignoring evidence of organised abuse of under-age girls, the wasted years between Theresa May’s ban on stop-and-search powers – to pander to fake claims that they were racist – and her successor’s reinstatement of them, the impossibility of policing borders under the EU’s obligations to open borders and the judiciary’s willingness to make excuses for criminal migration, and the hypocrisies of Europol’s claims to be a simple facilitator of British security while lobbying against Brexit (oh wait, I realise the NCA’s inspiration now).

The NCA’s consolidation of responsibilities from three agencies was supposed to offer efficiencies, so why does it need so much more money? Why is it lobbying the public for money on which only the government can vote? This is unseemly. It should be fighting crime to the best of its ability – if the public noticed that it is efficient but ineffective, the public would be receptive to increasing its budget. Lobbying for budgetary change should be confidential from the agency to the political administration, which then consults the public. Instead, the NCA is lobbying the public to influence the political administration. Ironically, the NCA’s lobbying proves that it is wasteful and self-interested, and thus deserves reform before it gets more money.

The Met also deserves reform – this is the Met that stood by three weeks ago while climate change protesters shut down London’s highways, joined their partying, and even expressed support for their agenda. Coppers belatedly arrested a few of the most committed (the ones who chained or stuck themselves to barriers), then released them back to the protests. The Met’s leader (Cressida Dick) was reduced to lobbying through the mainstream media for protesters to move. Predictably, it didn’t work, so eventually, after many days, she reluctantly sent in the bobbies to clear the streets, in a predictably slow and apologetic way. The protesters returned to their private responsibilities, claiming victory, and promised to repeat the feat.

Did Cressida Dick offer any sort of mea culpa? Of course not. She returned to lobbying the public – the new norm in British law enforcement. This same week, she blamed the Met’s failures to stop the Extinction Rebellion’s disruption on ‘ancient’ laws that supposedly prevent the police from acting. I suppose the Crown Prosecution Service will blame the law for its failure to prosecute the protesters. Then the government will blame the EU for preventing any changes in the law – and nothing changes.

British policing needs a clear-out of its leaders, from the Met to the NCA. That will need to start with a political clear-out, until we have politicians who wish to return the supremacy of law enforcement over social justice, sovereignty over deferment to the EU, and accountability over irresponsibility.

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Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas Permian Basin. He is also the author of the anti-woke satire "The Dark Side of Sunshine" (Perseublishing, 2020).

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