Get tough task force aims to kick criminals into touch
It is high time to tackle criminals whose actions undermine the wellbeing of all Scots as drugs, scams counterfeiting and people trafficking flourishes.
That is something that anyone with concerns about the darker side of life today could agree on – right across Scotland.
Yet how do you crack the formula to deal with the myriad of different issues that are so slickly controlled by organised crime?
Steps taken last week at the highest level and developed here in North Lanarkshire in the first instance could play a part in answering that question.
For new computerised training materials will help local authority enforcement officers in their quest to crack down – within the more streamlined environment of different council departments.
And they will be backed to the hilt by Police Scotland and Holyrood itself at it attempts to get to grips with gangs.
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf officially launched the far-reaching online training resource in front of the Scottish media at the state-of-the-art Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh last Monday (October 7.)
Mr Yousaf, who chairs the Scottish Organised Crime Taskforce, said that it gave highly qualified staff a valuable added element in tacking crime that is frequently very challenging to address.
And the hope is that they can do so with a view to identifying serious problems at the earliest possible stage.
And he believes that the winner here will be the law-abiding people who make up the bulk of Scotland’s communities – urban and rural alike.
He said: “This resource will be a valuable tool to reduce the harm that serious organised crime causes to people, businesses and communities across Scotland.
“Local authority workers, such as trading standards, health and safety, housing, and environmental health, will now be better able to identify and report the signs of serious organised crime that they may encounter in the course of their roles.
“We know that criminals seek to prey on all aspects of community life.
“The taskforce continues to work to disrupt serious organised crime groups.
“Its aim is to ensure that the public sector is more aware of these threats and can take steps to help keep communities safe.
“Organised crime is a massive problem in Scotland.
“You just need to look at the number of drug deaths we have here.
“We also deal with a number of referrals involving human trafficking – but on the other hand we have organised a number of very successful operations against organised crime.”
North Lanarkshire Council was one of the partner organisations involved in creating the materials.
And it was also the first local authority involved.
One of the council’s executive directors, Robert Steenson, is also a lead in this project.
He said: “This training resource will be made available to local authority enforcement officers across Scotland.
“Whether it is through peddling drugs and the misery that this brings, undercutting legitimate businesses through tax evasion, money laundering and corner-cutting, defrauding people through bogus workman scams, dealing in counterfeit goods or trafficking vulnerable and exploited people, serious organised criminals are causing harm for their own personal gain.
“The aim of the taskforce is to reduce and dismantle the threat posed by organised crime groups.
“This new training resource will assist enforcement officers in their daily duties.
“It means that we can break the cycle of misery these groups impose on people, businesses and communities.”
More information on the work of the SOCT is available on the Scottish Government website.
Alternatively, see twitter: @SOCTaskforce.
Neil McGrory - Local Democracy Reporting Service