More harm than terrorism

NationalCrimeAgency-copy“…organised crime harms more people than terrorism.” This is the staggering but very real statistic quoted in a piece in the Guardian today on the work of the UK’s National Crime Agency.

The Agency was set up five years ago to amalgamate the work of various other departments and organisations including the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency, and has a remit to tackle virtually any and all organised or large-scale crime, from smuggling to child sex via prostitution and bank fraud. And thanks to a chronic lack of funding and the archaic policing system in the UK, it’s finding it very hard work.

Part of the problem is that crime, and the gangs that run it, develops constantly, taking advantage of new technology and the opening up of international routes for global trade. The other part is the odd, inherited structure of the UK police force, which is divided into lots of local (county) units and a few national ones, many of which duplicate each others’ work.

The article, titled “Organised crime in the UK is bigger than ever before. Can the police catch up?”, is a lengthy and somewhat depressing read. But it’s essential material for anyone interested in, or writing about, the police response to organised crime in this country. Just don’t expect any easy answers.

Keeping the Krays out of Brum

There’s a fascinating, if all-too-brief, snippet on the BBC website this morning about the Fewtrell brothers.  This family of eight, led by Eddie Fewtrell, ran a series of nightclubs in Birmingham in the 1950s and 60s – and were apparently the main reason the Krays never managed to break into the city’s gangland culture.

The story is all set to be made into a film, and I hope it has more detail on who the Fewtrells were and how they operated.  Were they every bit as dangerous in their own way as the Kray twins were in London?  Did they engage in organised crime, or did they run their club empire ‘clean’?  And just how true is the legend that Eddie Fewtrell kept the Krays out of an entire city more-or-less single-handed?

I’d heard remarkably little about the Fewtrells in spite of living in one area of Birmingham’s club-land (along the Hagley Road) for over three years.  If nothing else, it’s fascinating to discover that a very similar celebrity-meets-organised-crime culture was growing up in another of Britain’s cities at exactly the same time.  Crime, even violent crime, seems to have had a real aura of romance back then.  I wonder how much that’s changed over the years…