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Twice as many serious criminals in the UK as there are soldiers in the Army | UK News

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There are more than 180,000 offenders linked to serious and organised crime in the UK, twice the number of troops in the British Army, according to the National Crime Agency.

Director of the NCA Lynne Owens has described the scale of organised crime as “staggering” and warned that “the public will feel the consequences” if funding to fight it is not boosted by at least £2.7bn over the next three years.

In its annual assessment the NCA said its estimate of the number of criminals was probably a conservative one as it only includes members of organised crime gangs and the worst paedophiles operating on the dark web.

It estimated the cost to the UK of their activities at around £37bn a year.

It also found that criminal gangs were becoming younger and using a combination of new technology and extreme violence, highlighted by an explosion in the number of so-called county lines gangs from 720 to around 2,000 in just one year.

Ms Owens said: “The organised criminals of today are indiscriminate, they care less about what types of crime they’re involved in, as long as it makes them a profit.

“These groups are preying on the most vulnerable in society, including young children and the elderly, those most unable to protect themselves.”

She added: “The choice is stark.

“Failing to invest will result in the gradual erosion of our capabilities and our ability to protect the public.”

The 2019 NSA report found a growing use of the dark web and encryption to avoid detection and cryptocurrencies to launder money.

The report also took in child abuse and modern slavery and identified around 150,000 UK based offenders with accounts registered on the worst child sexual abuse sites on the dark web worldwide.

It said the number of referrals to the NCA from internet firms of suspected online child sexual abuse and exploitation have increased by seven times since 2013 and referrals of potential victims of modern slavery have increased by more than 80% since 2016.

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