The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) is trying out a new approach to the problem of organised crime. Rather than simply attempting to arrest those responsible, they are also seeking to disrupt the activities of gangs.
The agency has worked with a range of public regulators to frustrate organised crime groups’ attempts to launder their cash through businesses in industries such as the taxi trade and security industry. A total of 59 schemes have been devised to undermine Scotland’s 360 organised crime groups.
SCDEA shares intelligence with other agencies, including trading standards, NHS boards and local authorities. Crucially, some of these links are making it hard for Scotland’s drug importers to travel abroad. Visa restrictions have been imposed on significant Scottish players by both the governments of Canada and the United States in recent months.
SCDEA officers have harried front companies and seized nearly £1.3 million from the working capital of criminals – far more than ever before – and frustrated deals to buy guns and drugs.
The agency also arrested 195 people, including 73 of the “most harmful and dangerous” criminals in the country, securing convictions that ended in a cumulative jail sentence of 275 years, a new record.
Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, the SCDEA’s director-general, said “Disruption is the name of the game for us. It is what we focus on. It is what we are measured on and it is what is really, really important to us.”
Meldrum explained that the new approach could involve preventing crime taking place rather than simply arresting those responsible afterwards.
“If you think about it logically, if we know organised crime is involved in a deal to bring drugs back in to Scotland and we know they are leaving Scotland with a big bag of cash, why would we let them do that?” he explained.
“Why would we run the risk of letting them leave the country with the money and let them bring back the drugs just so we could seize the white powder as a measure of our success?”
It is an interesting approach and it seems to be having positive results. And let’s not forget that Al Capone was eventually jailed for tax evasion rather than the many other crimes he and his gang committed.