Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Met Goes on Crooks' Money Trail; 'Operation Payback' to Track Down and Seize Criminal Assets

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Met Goes on Crooks' Money Trail; 'Operation Payback' to Track Down and Seize Criminal Assets

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin davenport Crime Correspondent

SCOTLAND YARD is sending financial hit squads into boroughs in a new drive against crime.

Using tactics that mirror the hit TV police show The Wire, specialist cash investigators will trawl bank records and credit card spending in a bid to catch criminals.

The strategy was originally aimed at stripping the assets of major drug barons.

The borough squads will target a range of criminals including suspects in domestic violence cases and sex offenders as well as street-level drug dealers, robbers and burglars.

The financial investigation units, known as Operation Payback Teams, will use powers first issued under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

Det Supt Janice McClean said: "This is about using every financial technique we have to combat all kinds of crime types and to locate and trace people. We want our local officers and detectives to think that this is just another tool in gathering evidence, in the same way as collecting DNA and fingerprints."

This approach means if police do not have the evidence to prosecute criminals for serious crimes they pursue them for other offences, such as tax evasion.

A total of 400 detectives across the Met are trained in techniques to "follow the money" in criminal inquiries. Many are involved in specialist investigations into London's most serious gangsters but more than 180 are solely involved in financial inquiries in boroughs.

Police believe that targeting smaller street-level dealers can have an impact on leaders of drug crime.

Det Supt McClean said: "I believe that this can have a significant impact on organised crime because if you cut off the lifeblood at the bottom end of a crime group then you will disrupt the top end.

"If we take the assets of the street robbers and the street-level drug dealers who are committing burglaries then we will start to starve the handlers of their business and that will work its way up the organisation. …

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