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SOCA: A Paradigm Shift in British Policing

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2006 Pages: 743-761
Clive Harfield
Date Published
July 2006
19 pages
This paper documents the creation of Great Britain's new Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), a key component of the current police reform effort, and discusses potential implications of its work.
SOCA's creation was announced on February 9, 2004. It has been promoted as part of a wider strategy to counter organized crime in the 21st century. SOCA is to be an intelligence-led organization, and the first chairperson of the SOCA Board is an ex-Director-General of M15, Britain's national intelligence agency. Most of the 30 deputy directors have a police service background, however. SOCA's functions are to prevent and detect serious organized crime; contribute to the reduction of serious organized crime in other ways; and collect, store, analyze, and disseminate information relevant to the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of offenses. There is the potential for SOCA to follow its own course as determined by the Home Secretary, without regard for the views of other members of the extended police family. The statutory provisions for requests for mutual assistance between SOCA and local police forces pertains to specific operational needs and does not refer to influencing SOCA's policymaking or agenda. This departs from precedent established for the National Crime Squad (one of the agencies replaced by SOCA), which was obligated, when determining its objectives, to consult "persons whom it considers to represent the interests of police authorities for areas in England and Wales." Thus, SOCA does not seem to fit well in the contemporary model of policing that envisions active participation from the local community and its representatives in both crime control and public order. It will operate outside of any local input at both the national and international levels. 37 references