UK: National Crime Agency Initiated
The British National Crime Agency (NCA) became operational on Monday, officially replacing the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).
The NCA will work with foreign counterparts and other law enforcement agencies in the UK, employing 4,500 officers against an agency estimate of 37,000 criminals and 5,500 criminal organizations involved in serious or organized crime.
Described by some as the British equivalent of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the new agency will replace SOCA with additional duties taken over from the Border Agency, the police training college, and the national online child abuse unit. However, the BBC noted that the NCA's budget of around US$760 million per year is significantly lower than the funding for the law enforcement bodies the agency is replacing.
The primary agency being replaced, SOCA, had been heavily criticized since its formation in April 2006.
In an interview with The Independent, NCA Director Keith Bristow promised a more effective crime-fighting agency than SOCA. "There are going to be changes," he said. "The way in which the NCA is going to operate is a step-change from what went on before."
The NCA has already faced criticism, with politicians from the center-left Labour Party describing it as a "rebranding exercise" and saying the agency would not meet the hype of the Home Ministry.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told BBC News that, while the NCA was "important and we wish it well, this is rebranding from existing organizations and, unfortunately, with a 20% budget cut."
The NCA has already begun anti-crime operations, investigating four suspects involved in the digital trafficking site Silk Road that was shut down by the FBI last week. The agency predicted that more arrests are likely to follow, according to the BBC.