New police offensive will target gangland mafias

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Crime Correspondent

Britain's gangsters are to be targeted in a new police offensive against the growing menace of organised crime. A register of gangland members and their organisations is to be drawn up by a national police intelligence unit in the first action of its kind, the Independent has learnt.

The aim of the police is to prevent a Mafia-style organisation establishing itself in this country and to enable detectives to target and trace criminal groups. From October intelligence organisations will use a 12-point identification document - the Organised Crime Notification Form - to build up a list of all known organised criminals and their gangs.

The initiative is in response to evidence that the influence of organised criminals, such as drug barons, Chinese triads and Jamaican yardies, is growing. Increasingly sophisticated and violent gangs, involved in every kind of crime from drug trafficking to counterfeiting money, are operating throughout the country, police say.

At first, the gangster register will involve six police forces - one of which is believed to be the Metropolitan Police - and two intelligence organisations, including Customs and Excise, but the scheme should be extended nationally next April. Information will be compiled by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), a Home Office organisation staffed by police and customs officers.

Peter Richie, head of the organised crime unit at NCIS's strategic and specialist intelligence branch, said: "We need to know which areas of organised crime are growing and to spot new trends quickly. We want to see whether a Mafia-style gang is developing."

Police regional crime squads and senior intelligence officers will be sent the 12-point gangster check list. If the suspects or their gang have at least 5 of the 12 listed characteristics they are considered part of organised crime. The questions include whether the person or organisation "exerts influence on politics, the media, public administration, judicial authorities or the courts", whether they are engaged in money laundering, have commercial or business-like structures, and whether they use some form of discipline or control over their members.

The initiative comes shortly after an investigation into the extent of organised crime by the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs.

Last month it concluded: "Taken as a whole organised crime in the UK is a cause for serious concern." It found the vast majority of organised crime was connected to the control and supply of drugs.