This week Scotland has welcomed representatives from over 30 countries for a meeting of the INTERPOL Pollution Crime Working Group. Today some of them are visiting the Scottish Crime Campus (SCC) at Gartcosh, to see how coming together in one venue has helped improve working relationships between a number of organisations involved in tackling serious and organised crime.
Many agencies come together at the Campus, including the National Crime Agency, Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), HMRC and SEPA – and it’s played a big part in our ability to tackle criminals operating in the waste industry.
We have Intelligence Officers from our Enforcement Support Team embedded at the SCC within the National Intelligence Bureau, as well as analytical and intelligence research staff working there as required.
The biggest advantage for us is access to intelligence colleagues from across all the law enforcement agencies based there. There’s a big difference between working over the phone and via email, and being able to sit down face-to-face and get to know each other – it creates a working relationship we wouldn’t be able to maintain in any other way.
As an example, our dedicated financial investigators provide a link with financial institutions in progressing POCA investigations and identifying assets for potential restraint. But we don’t have powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to serve production orders on banks. Police Scotland does so we need to work in partnership with them to progress these cases through submissions to COPFS’ Serious Organised Crime Division POCA Unit so that further evidence can be gathered.
Co-location enables us to get urgent meetings with COPFS to agree the approach to investigations that, while worked out in principle, can be quickly confirmed in a face-to-face meeting – rather than numerous phone calls and emails. It makes it much easier to co-ordinate requests so that they can be resourced quickly and a joint response between SEPA and Police Scotland and other partners co-ordinated and resourced. Crucially, we can’t always predict when all this work might be needed; investigative demands can be brought forward at very short notice and there can be calls for intelligence development that can be resourced there and then. By being in the same building we have levels of trust, mutual support and engagement with staff from other organisations that we just couldn’t develop if we were all working in different places, and that allows us to work together more effectively.
Scotland has led the way in law enforcement partnership working and joint intervention activities and, as well as passing on our experience to our global colleagues, we’ll also seek to learn from them and build platforms for a truly collaborative approach that lies at the heart of the work ahead.