No-one will be beyond the reach of Britain’s new FBI-style police agency, its founding director has warned.
The first head of the National Crime Agency (NCA) set up by Home Secretary Theresa May aims to tackle border policing, child exploitation and cyber crime.
During a day of training at Northumbria Constabulary Ops Tactical centre in South Tyneside, actors played the parts of some of the country’s most dangerous criminals while newly instated officers got to test out the latest tactics.
NCA director general Keith Bristow said: “To be clear, there will be no one beyond the reach of law enforcement or beyond the reach of the NCA.
“Those people involved in the most horrible activities can expect the most comprehensive and robust response.”
With a budget of nearly half-a-billion pounds a year, they will lead the fight against the estimated 37,000 criminals involved in serious and organised crime that hits the UK.
More than 4,000 NCA officers will tackle crime in four areas - organised crime, economic crime, border policing and child exploitation and online protection, alongside a National Cyber Crime Unit.
The launch of the NCA spells the end of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) which set up in 2006 under Labour, as it is to be absorbed into the new organisation.
Proposals for the new agency were first unveiled by the Home Secretary in July 2010 as part of a broader shake-up of the policing landscape.
Announcing the new US-style organisation, Mrs May said it would have a sweeping new power to step in to directly task and co-ordinate regional police forces in a bid to tackle organised crime and secure the UK’s borders. It will also place around 120 officers overseas in 40 different countries.
Mr Bristow, a former chief constable of Warwickshire Police, said that unlike Soca, the NCA would not operate as a covert organisation and will be recognisable to the public with officers wearing branded caps and jackets.
But Shadow policing minister David Hanson said the National Crime Agency simply “re-brands” existing organisations.
He said: “Most of the NCA is just the rebranding of existing organisations such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but with a substantial 20% cut imposed by the Home Office in their overall budget.
“The new organisation is not strong enough to deal with the exponential growth of economic and online crime.”