27 Oct 2020
Organised criminals are extending their reach and forcing victims of sex trafficking into county lines drug dealing and other crimes, senior police said.
They no longer focus on one enterprise but are spreading their operations across drug trafficking, child sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.
Victims were being moved to different criminal operations to be exploited again and again, a chief constable said.
Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for child protection and abuse investigation, announced plans for an overhaul of the force’s approach to tackle the problem.
Mr Bailey said that over the past six years the police service had faced a series of new threats regarding vulnerable victims.
They included revelations of group-based child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other areas, a rise in modern-day slavery and increased violence around county lines in which youngsters are used as drug mules by organised gangs.
While criminals were moving deftly between each area and victims were being exposed to different types of crime, police had been looking at them separately.
Mr Bailey, the chief constable for Norfolk, said: “In each case the police service has been asked to respond to that specific threat, rather than looking at it through the lens [that] this is organised crime exploiting the vulnerable be it for money, sexual gratification, abuse of power, trafficking of drugs.
“It’s so important that we design, develop and deliver a holistic system response to the threat so that organised criminals are identified and hopefully their group is dismantled and they are brought to justice.
“It has been a silo-based response to a specific threat rather than a recognition that this is about organised criminality and organised groups exploiting the vulnerable as a whole.”
Mr Bailey announced details of the Tackling Organised Exploitation (Toex) project, a national initiative between the NPCC and the National Crime Agency that aims to redesign the approach to tackling and preventing the exploitation of vulnerable people, recognising that it transcends borders, boundaries and definitions.
Police leaders want funding to target such criminality in permanent “exploitation hubs”, based in regional organised crime units.
Specialist officers would harvest and assess intelligence and data, analyse and understand patterns of offending, assess threat and prioritise actions, and organise local, regional and national law enforcement responses. Mr Bailey said that organised crime groups would be targeted at the highest level of policing.
By Fiona Hamilton, The Times, 26 October 2020
Read more at The Times
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