Police focus on 'top echelon' criminals: The new head of the NCIS says that despite its success fighting Britain's underworld, it is short of money. Terry Kirby reports

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THE NATIONAL Criminal Intelligence Service needs more resources to help police target organised crime and major underworld figures, its new director-general, Albert Pacey, said yesterday.

Mr Pacey, the former chief constable of Gloucestershire who takes over as head of NCIS this week, said the debate about burglaries and car crime should not obscure the need to tackle drug trafficking, fraud and professional crime.

The annual budget of the service, which was established in April last year, is pounds 25m, and some senior officers argue it is underfunded for its task of amassing intelligence.

A plan for a purpose-built computer system has already been abandoned and many provincial forces have complained that, by restricting its work to the top echelon of criminals, the service is failing to help them tackle the bulk of 'middle rank' crime.

Mr Pacey said: 'People must not underestimate the need to try to pre- empt organised crime . . . The service aims to combat the top levels of organised criminality in this country and abroad, recognising that highly sophisticated criminals can cause loss, harm and, if not checked, economic, social and even political disruption out of all proportion to their numbers.'

Mr Pacey said the service had:

Identified the 500 top criminals in Britain and a further 2,000 needing targeting. The majority lived and operated in South-east England.

Developed dossiers on 450 criminal operations through informants, which had led to 330 arrests.

Provided information through its drug liaison officers which has resulted in more than 60 people being arrested worldwide and helped in the recovery of more than pounds 100m in dangerous drugs.

Examined 16,000 disclosures from banks and financial houses on suspicious transactions - with one in eight leading to further investigations.

Supplied intelligence through its illicit laboratory unit for 17 police raids on secret amphetamine factories.

And provided information through its counterfeit currency unit for seven police operations netting more than pounds 8m in forged sterling.

There were no current discussions on an operational arm, which would effectively create a British FBI, he said. Many senior officers feel it is the only way to make the service truly effective, but see the appointment of Mr Pacey as endorsing the status quo; provincial chief constables have been the strongest opponents of a FBI-style structure.

(Photograph omitted)