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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Gun and drug crimes threaten UK
Heroin
Thirty tons of heroin were smuggled into Britain last year
Organised drug gangs trafficking and selling heroin and crack cocaine pose the single biggest threat to the UK, say senior detectives.

The use of guns is another increasing concern to the National Criminal Investigation Service, which has published a report into the threat from serious and organised criminals.

The gun culture of places such as Jamaica being transferred to the UK has also led to calls for changes in the law which could clamp down on replica guns and result in stiffer sentences for possessing firearms.


Anyone who wishes to obtain a firearm will have little difficulty in doing so whether genuine, reactivated, modified or replica

NCIS report
People-smuggling, money laundering, fraud hi-tech crime - such as hacking - and paedophile crime are also on its list of the seven most serious threats to UK law and order.

The Director General of NCIS, John Abbot said the overall threat from organised criminals was significant.

"Our local communities provide the market place for organised crime to sell its wares - whether it be drugs, cigarettes, tobacco or counterfeit goods," he said.

"Our aim is to make it harder for serious and organised criminals to go about their criminal business and find new victims."

Turf wars

The report shows crimes involving guns increased 41% over the last two years, but still only made up 0.3% of all recorded crime.

Mr Abbot said the organised criminals were becoming more violent.

"There is a greater use of crack cocaine and with that come turf wars between dealers, between major criminals and invariably they will resort to some sort of violence and intimidation, sometimes that is the use of guns."

Key threats to UK
Class A drugs trafficking
Immigration crime
Fraud
Money laundering
Firearms
Hi-tech crimes
Paedophile crime
The report estimated there were 120,000 deactivated guns in the UK which could be brought back into use with a minimum of skill.

However police evidence suggests most are likely to be used against other criminals, who would be reluctant to give information to the police.

Many criminals involved in one illegal activity will be involved in another, especially drugs.

Up to 40 tons of cocaine and 30 tons of heroin were smuggled into Britain last year, the report said.

The relationship between South American, Spanish, Dutch and British criminals is becoming more complex and the British are becoming more significant traffickers in their own right - increasingly smuggling cocktails of drugs.

The NCIS's Director of Intelligence, David Bolt, said Jamaican gangs made extensive use of couriers to smuggle crack cocaine into the UK.

Technology

He said flights from Jamaica may contain as many as 25 couriers who had "stuffed or swallowed" consignments of drugs.

Advances in technology have made the internet and mobile phones popular with organised criminals for their speed, range and anonymity.

Lorry being search for immigrants
The UK is a popular target for people smugglers
Mr Bolt said the internet had also transformed the nature and extent of paedophile networking.

He said paedophiles, who usually operate alone, were able to exchange everything from material to techniques on internet chat rooms.

Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said the NCIS's threat assessment was invaluable in the fight against crime.

He said the forthcoming Proceeds of Crime Bill will help law enforcement in cracking down on major criminals by confiscating their profits.

The government was also looking at whether there was more it could do in relation to firearms and that did not rule out legislation, he said.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | 4x4 Reports
24 Apr 02 | Politics
22 Apr 02 | UK
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