Combatting organised crime requires partnership working across law enforcement agencies and support from the entire community.
That was the message from Justice Minister Claire Sugden at the launch of the 2016 Organised Crime Task Force Annual Report and Threat Assessment. During the event in Newforge Country Club, the Minister thanked law enforcement agencies for their commitment to tackling organised crime in Northern Ireland and encouraged members of the public to play their part in identifying and reporting crime.
Chair of the Organised Crime Taskforce, Minister Sugden said: “Organised crime does not operate in a vacuum. It has an adverse impact on local communities and society as a whole. It affects our economy, our public services and our living spaces.
“Criminals profit at the expense of the community through drug dealing, human trafficking, cyber crime, extortion and other forms of organised crime. The Organised Crime Task Force works to confront these criminals through strong multi-agency partnership. There has been significant progress throughout the year and I commend all those involved.”
Some of the key successes of the OCTF during 2015/16 include:
- The dismantling of 28 organised crime groups;
- Over £11million of drugs seized;
- The confiscation of £1.6million of criminal assets;
- The dismantling of 12 fuel laundering plants; and
- The recovery of 59 potential victims of human trafficking.
Continuing the Minister said: “It is important to remember that the police and other law enforcement agencies need support from the general public – we all have a role to play. I would ask people to think twice about what they might consider to be harmless activity. Purchasing counterfeit goods such as perfume, handbags or DVDs or indeed illegal fuel is not a victimless crime. This often funds more serious criminal activity and causes loss of revenue which could otherwise be used for public services.
“I would also encourage members of the public to report any suspicions of organised crime immediately to the PSNI or the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris added: “The Organised Crime Taskforce is a component part of our response to tackling organised crime across the island of Ireland and further afield. This year’s Annual Report recognises the contribution and significant successes of the law enforcement agencies over the past 12 months. Whether it is tracking illegal drugs, rescuing victims of human trafficking, seizing laundered fuel or tacking cyber-crime or dealing with high value fraud, the joined-up approach to dealing with serious criminality ensures that together, we are helping to ‘Keep People Safe.”