A key funding stream is available to tackle cross-border criminality and promote victim and witness welfare.
Cliff Caswell reports for the Police Oracle in the UK
Date – 5th June 2014
When senior officer Bernie Gravett was conducting an investigation into international criminal gangs, little did he know that he would stumble across one of the best kept secrets in policing – a European fund that can assist to the tune of hundreds of thousands of euros.
Faced with the prospect that the then Serious Organised Crime Agency would not be able to assist a probe he had been conducting into international criminal gangs for the Metro amid cost concerns, the then chief inspector took the internet in a move to find any assistance he could – what he discovered would change his outlook completely.
The European Commission Internal Security – or ISEC – fund offered cash for projects and operations involving cross-border crime, and it proved to be the answer to progress his operation.
“I applied to this fund and received more than a million euros to progress the investigation,” Mr Gravett – who is now retired and runs Specialist Policing Consultancy – recalled.
“Operation Golf identified four gangs involved in human trafficking and we received a further 1.5 million euros to carry on investigating – ultimately some 26 gang members were identified and prosecuted in Romania and a further 90 gang members here in the UK.
“More importantly for cross-border operations, this was the first time there had been a joint investigation team into human trafficking – giving my team powers to operate on foreign soil.”
By all accounts, the ISEC fund is certainly a lesser-known form of support in this country, even though it can potentially unlock significant assistance for investigations – from 2014 until 2020 there is some £4.6 billion available to help fight cross border crime.
The funding is available for police forces and law enforcement agencies as well as non-governmental organisations and local authorities. Cash can be awarded for projects related to crime prevention, law enforcement, witness protection and support and victim protection – although the project must have a trans-national dimension.
An application can be made from anyone in an organisation – even those of a junior standing – although it must obviously be ratified through the chain of command.
The funds awarded can be used to pay expenses including additional staff growth, travel and subsistence, equipment associated with the project, costs of publishing reports and interpretation and translation – yet Mr Gravett believes the money remains under-used.
“I think one of the issues with the Police Service in the UK is that forces are so used to looking at issues through a local perspective,” the former officer – who retired as a superintendent – added. “However, there is significant evidence that there are mobile organised crime gangs that are operating across Europe on a very large scale.
“There are UK criminals in central Europe, and European criminals operating here in the UK – unless we can get funding, there are rarely resources to impact on these networks. Forces, in my view, should be more proactive in looking at external funding sources.
“This country is not one that attracts a larger number of applications to ISEC, and on occasion the success rates for securing funding have not been high. One issue I find is that senior investigating officers already have busy timetables, and that the application process is believed to be time consuming, awkward and difficult to manage.”
In cases where ISEC cash has been put to good use by the Police Service, the results have spoken for themselves. The Met recently used the funding to pay for officers seconded from other countries to work in London, while officers in the neighbouring City of London Police moved to target organised criminal gangs involved in cash machine fraud.
Mr Gravett believes that the European dimension to investigations is likely to be experienced more and more in the UK as new migrant communities from the east of the continent arrive to live and work – and ensuring that their welfare was looked after when they were potentially vulnerable to being targeted by criminals.
“Times are changing, crime is changing and we are now living in a time in which organised crime gangs can cross borders easily,” he said. “But ISEC is about more than dealing with crime – it has a wide scope and can be used for a variety of projects.”
This is certainly true. With austerity measures still biting across the country and forces cut back to the bone, any form of funding that can underpin policing has to desirable.
To this end, the ISEC fund could be a valuable resource. Provided for a variety of law enforcement applications – and available to policing partners – this is an option that should be hard to ignore.
The EC will be publishing the rules and procedures for the next round of funding in July. PoliceOracle.com will be releasing a following up story, explaining more about the process of applying, in due course.