Main Image Credit Mykhailo Polenok / Alamy Stock Photo
In 2022, escalating levels of fraud and the spotlight placed on the UK’s role in Russia-related money laundering have given rise to a growing recognition of economic crime as a national security threat and the need to reform the UK’s economic crime policing response.
This report seeks to contribute to that debate by proposing a national security-based model that draws on the key characteristics of three other national security policing responses – counterterrorism, serious and organised crime, and cybercrime – and adapts these to the specific challenges and context of economic crime policing.
The proposed model establishes a new set of core functions. It builds a strong central intelligence function, backed by a single policing command structure, to deliver the operational response via new proactive and ringfenced investigative units at the regional tier of policing, aligned to existing serious and organised crime policing structures. These core functions are:
- Strategic system and data analytics lead – the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC): The model builds on the existing role of the NECC but establishes it as the driver of intelligence development and data analytics. Working with public and private sector partners to create a better understanding of the threat through more agile public–private data sharing, the NECC would be responsible for setting the strategic direction for the wider system as well as taking a more coherent intelligence-led approach to prevention.
- Single command structure – City of London Police (CoLP): The model maintains the CoLP as the policing lead for economic crime and extends its existing footprint by establishing a single command structure with ringfenced assets at the regional tier of policing. Further to this, the CoLP would be responsible for setting a national policing strategy for economic crime across the wider 43-force structure.
- Proactive investigative capability – regional ‘super-hubs’ network: Underpinning the single command structure would be a new networked, regionalised proactive investigative resource focused on delivering threat-based interventions against high-harm networks. This regionalised response would focus first on bringing together existing policing assets under a single platform, before expanding into multidisciplinary public–private ‘super-hubs’ to drive a large-scale disruption and prevention capability along the lines of the UK government’s counterterrorism strategy ‘4Ps’ model (‘Prevent, Pursue, Protect, Prepare’). This regionalised network would be housed alongside the established network of Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) but be operationally distinct from it.
The success of the new functions will hinge on the establishment of a single, ringfenced economic crime policing grant from the Home Office (mirroring the approach taken in counterterrorism policing), which should reach a minimum level of £250 million by 2030. This should be supplemented by a national ‘Economic Crime Fighting Fund’ made up of receipts from across the economic crime system and used to build system-wide capabilities.
Furthermore, this report argues that tackling economic crime requires a range of skills far beyond that of a warranted officer, including data science and digital forensic skills. This report therefore makes the case for the establishment of a national Economic Crime People and Skills Strategy (mirroring the approach taken within the National Cyber Strategy) to build a sustainable workforce for the future.
It is clear that the government’s second Economic Crime Plan, due to launch in early 2023, needs to set out a more ambitious policing reform plan. In sum, if economic crime is to be accepted as a national security issue, the government needs to police it like one.
Former Senior Research Fellow
Senior Associate Fellow; Director, Financial Conduct Authority