Belfast Telegraph

Organised crime - It is closer than you think

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Justice

Justice Minister David Ford has called on the public to think if their actions support organised crime and urged them not to fund criminality.

The Minister made the call as he published the Organised Crime Taskforce (OCTF) Annual Report and Threat Assessment.

An OCTF video launched at the event, aims to bring the issue closer to home by getting the public thinking about their role in supporting organised crime whether that is buying fake goods, filling their cars with laundered fuel or purchasing prescription medicines from an illicit source. It highlights that by purchasing goods and services, the public is itself funding the criminals that inflict harm and misery on our society.

The video can be viewed on YouTube at http://youtu.be/u8Ap6D53RB8

The Minister also outlined some of the key successes for the OCTF during 2012/13. They are:

· 16 potential victims of human trafficking rescued;
· 4,475 drug seizures with a value of £10.2million;
· 2,784 arrested by PSNI for drug offences – almost 10% more than the previous year;
· 22 fuel laundering plants dismantled;
· 820,000 litres of illicit fuel seized and
· £1.359million criminal assets seized and £729,000 cash forfeited.

“Law enforcement agencies and government will continue in our work to tackle organised crime but the support of the public is vital.

“Our threat assessment points to the continued general lack of public understanding of the connection between, for example, the purchase of fake goods and the supporting of organised crime gangs; and indeed the funding of more dangerous elements of the gangs including selling drugs to young people and prostitution rings involving trafficking victims.

“The theme of this year’s launch is therefore to urge the public to better understand their role in organised crime and stop supporting criminality – however innocent they think their actions may be. There is no such thing as a victimless crime – organised crime is closer than you think!”

In relation to the new National Crime Agency (NCA), David Ford said: “Organised crime is a worldwide threat, and as Justice Minister and Chair of the Organised Crime Taskforce, I am naturally concerned that if the NCA cannot fully exercise its duties here crime fighting efforts against organised criminals will be weakened in Northern Ireland. In my view there is no reason why the NCA should not be able to exercise its full range of duties in Northern Ireland. I hope that with renewed engagement and discussion this will be possible.”

Also addressing the launch, the Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "Police are working with partners to reduce the threat posed to communities by organised crime: last year we frustrated, disrupted or dismantled 116 Organised Crime Groups and made 464 arrests, in many cases resulting in convictions and custodial sentences. Our criminal justice work will continue but we will also be concentrating on increasing community awareness. People need to recognise the link between their decisions to purchase certain goods and services and how the wrong choice can increase their personal risk of becoming a victim. We will continue to work to reduce the substantial risks posed to our communities by organised crime."

Notes to editors:

1. The OCTF Annual Report and Threat Assessment 2013 can be found on the DOJ website at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/organised-crime-task-force-annual-report-and-threat-assessment-2013

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