Police target cross-border crime gangs

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The Independent Online
A campaign to crack down on criminal gangs that carry out nationwide operations involving robbery, burglary, counterfeiting and drugs is being mounted by the police.

A study has shown that at least 10 per cent of crimes are believed to be the work of organised gangs moving around the country, usually into neighbouring police force areas. In some types of crime, such as burglary, up to one-third of all offences are believed to have been the work of outside gangs.

Police chiefs are concerned that many organised crimes which take place between different force boundaries are going undetected because of the lack of co-operation between chief constables. At present, there is no single organisation responsible for tackling these sorts of crime, which are not considered serious enough for the regional crime squads to deal with. Similarly, the mooted national crime unit is not expected to deal with these offences.

To help co-ordinate future police operations against the cross-border criminals, a new task force is being set up. Measures are also being taken to ensure that police forces share more information and intelligence and take part in joint operations. Police chiefs are particularly concerned about property crimes, such as large-scale burglaries, bank and building society robberies, car crime, some drug dealing, counterfeiting goods and money. They will also be looking at links between some murders, and sexually and physical assaults.

Colin Philips, assistant chief constable at Greater Manchester Police, is chairman of the new Cross Border Crime working party, which was set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers' crime committee.

Under the new initiative his team has begun holding meetings with senior officers from forces throughout England and Wales to help plan and discuss joint operations. Mr Philips wants to encourage greater sharing of intelligence and ensure there is greater recognition of the problem. "Increasing numbers of criminals are ignoring force boundaries. People are more mobile and willing to travel around the country to commit crime," he said.

"There's a gap with the current system and there's no one specifically dealing with many of the more sophisticated, career criminals, who carry out offences such as burglaries, robberies and drug dealing ... We want to reverse that trend and introduce greater co-operation and joint force operations."

Senior police officers will discuss the progress of the scheme at the association's summer conference next month.