A US-style National Crime Agency (NCA) will have a sweeping new power to step in to directly task and co-ordinate police forces in a bid to tackle organised crime and secure the UK's borders, the Home Secretary said.
Theresa May said too many of the 6,000 organised crime gangs in the UK were escaping justice and a tough new approach was needed.
The agency will step in to co-ordinate police work, identify national priorities and ensure that the new directly-elected police and crime commissioners are "aware of the needs of the nation", she said.
"For the first time, there will be one agency with the power, remit and responsibility for ensuring that the right action is taken at the right time by the right people," Mrs May told MPs. "NCA officers will be able to draw on a wide range of powers, including those of a police constable, immigration or customs powers. This will mean that NCA officers - unlike anybody else - will be able to deploy powers and techniques that go beyond the powers of a police officer."
But the NCA "cannot and should not deliver the national response in isolation" but "will have the authority to undertake tasking and co-ordination, ensuring appropriate action is taken to put a stop to the activities of organised crime groups", the Home Office said. "It will step in to directly task where there are disputes about the nature of approach or ownership."
Mrs May added: "I think it's important for this country that we take organised crime as seriously as we should. We haven't been able to deal with it as effectively as we need to because we have set up organisations that work in silos. There has been no proper cross-law enforcement agency co-ordination.
"This new National Crime Agency, and the powers that it has, this is a serious crime fighting body that will significantly enhance the UK's ability to deal with organised crime."
Its budget will not exceed that of the agencies it replaces and about £3 million of Government funding has been committed "for the national co-ordination of organised crime policing" in 2011/12, including an intelligence centre.
The Home Office plan for its creation highlighted comments by Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stephenson last year, who suggested the NCA could have powers to "maintain strategic oversight of operations and operational deployments, deliver a command and control capability when needed".
In tackling organised crime gangs, the NCA could lead operations involving several agencies, "developing a plan in agreement with all the police forces and agencies involved", so that each one "would be clear on what to do, when and why".