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National Crime Agency publishes 2018 analysis of serious and organised crime threats

The 2018 National Strategic Assessment (NSA) draws intelligence from UK law enforcement, government departments, the intelligence community and the private and voluntary sectors.


The assessment provides evidence that the scale and complexity of organised crime continues to grow despite notable operational successes - reinforcing the findings from the National Security Capability Review, recently published by the National Security Advisor.

The NSA highlights overlaps and links between all threat types.

It also emphasises that criminals are abusing technology and the impact of globalisation to adapt their methods of committing crime. They operate as part of groups, networks and as individuals. For the purposes of assessment we group the threats in three areas:-

Vulnerability - including child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) and organised immigration crime (OIC);

Prosperity - including cybercrime, money laundering and other economic crime, and;

Commodity - including the illicit trade in firearms and drugs.

Observations from the 2018 assessment include:

  • We assess that the scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK is continually and gradually increasing, while a growing proportion of potential victims are claiming they have been exploited before arriving in the UK. This is likely to reflect the developing risks in transit countries, principally in North Africa.
  • There has been an upward trend in criminal firearms discharges, with the majority of weapons not having been previously used. This indicates a fluid illicit supply from UK and overseas sources
  • Money laundering potentially running to hundreds of billions of pounds impacts the UK annually, with a significant threat being posed by the criminal exploitation of accounting and legal professionals involved with trust and company provision.
  • The UK is a prime destination for corrupt foreign Politically Exposed Persons to launder the proceeds of corruption, particularly those from Russia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • UK cyber crime continues to rise in scale and complexity but under-reporting of data breaches continues to erode our ability to make robust assessments of the scale and cost of network intrusions.

NCA Director General Lynne Owens said:

“The National Crime Agency leads the response to serious and organised crime in the UK, protecting the public and targeting the criminals who have the biggest impact. We work closely with colleagues across law enforcement, and elsewhere, to do so.

“This year’s assessment shows that organised crime groups (OCGs) are exploiting digital technology, for instance using encryption to communicate, and dark web market places to aid their activities. 

“Criminals are continuing to develop international connections to increase the reach of their activity, and to maximise profits. We are also seeing ever-increasing crossover between crime threats, with finance at the heart of this. Organised criminals involved in smuggling of people or firearms also supply drugs, and the relationship between organised immigration crime and modern slavery is becoming more apparent.

“Criminal groups seek to make as much money as possible from the suffering and exploitation of others, and continue to put the public at risk. 

“The increasing sophistication of crime groups, coupled with the changing nature of their geographical reach, demonstrates more than ever the requirement for an increasingly co-ordinated response.

“Working alongside our law enforcement, intelligence and other partners, we are changing the way we operate to ensure the biggest possible impact. We will use this intelligence assessment to build on our operational successes and evidence why further investment in capabilities and capacity is necessary.”

 pdf You can read the 2018 NSA here (3.48 MB)


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