Bedfordshire was exceptionally impacted by intelligence gathered as part of this operation, and additional special grant funding was subsequently awarded by government to help the force’s response.
Operation Venetic and the takedown of EncroChat
The EncroChat system was taken down as part of Operation Venetic, which involved French and Dutch police along with the National Crime Agency (NCA), Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and police forces across the country. Data held within the system’s servers gave law enforcement a unique insight into hundreds of previously unknown criminal networks.
The initial UK law enforcement response alone led to entire organised crime groups being dismantled, with 746 arrests, and £54m criminal cash, 77 firearms and over two tonnes of drugs seized. Since then, hundreds more arrests and seizures have been made.
Serious and organised crime is planned, coordinated, and committed by people working individually, in groups, or as part of transnational networks. Criminals’ motivation is often financial gain but varies depending on the type of criminality.
Organised crime can take many forms. One of the features of the groups involved is that they are often involved in several criminal activities, with each crime feeding off the other.
Here in Bedfordshire, much of the violence and exploitation of children and vulnerable people we see can be traced back to organised criminal activity.
An organised crime group’s activities can span several different crime types, often including:
Drug dealing of substances like cocaine, crack, and heroin
Mass cannabis production
Organised immigration crime
Child criminal and sexual exploitation
Modern slavery and human trafficking
Organised acquisitive crime
Serious and organised crime affects more people in the UK, more often, than any other national security threat. It leads to more deaths in the UK each year than all other national security threats combined, including terrorism. It costs the country at least £37 billion every year.
While serious and organised crime is an international issue, it has a massive impact here in Bedfordshire. The county’s population, demographics and transport links mean organised crime has a bigger impact here than it does in similar sized areas.
A major piece of police research with our partners estimates that more than £100 million is spent on cocaine and cannabis in the county every year.
More than 400 victims of modern slavery were identified in Bedfordshire last year – the ninth highest of every police force area in the country, and higher than other force areas such as Northern Ireland and Merseyside.
While organised crime group’s activities can vary significantly, these are some key signs to spot that someone might be involved in serious and organised crime:
Wealth and expensive possessions can be an indicator of involvement in organised crime, especially if this is beyond what someone could reasonably pay for.
Those involved in organised crime will often have multiple phones, or specialist phones that are encrypted. These phones will look similar but slightly different to normal phones.
Criminal networks tend to deal in cash, so large amounts of cash can be indicator. Also look out for luxury items such as jewellery or clothes which can be purchased with cash.
People involved in organised crime will often hide weapons in their homes.
Many criminal gangs will use businesses or financial services to hide or launder their money.
How you can help
If you see something suspicious, whether this is suspected drug dealing, an unusual increase in people visiting or potential money laundering, let us know.
This information is fed into police intelligence systems and helps officers build up a picture of organised crime, even if they do not act on the information straight away.
You can report concerns to us directly online or by calling 101.