Crackdown on criminal finances set to send money grabbed back from offenders soaring

South Yorkshire criminals are facing a new financial onslaught from police which is expected to strip them of their profits more effectively in future and could help benefit communities which have suffered at their hands.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 20 May, 2019, 01:20
Cashback:Police are set to claw back massive sums in criminal cash

South Yorkshire criminals are facing a new financial onslaught from police which is expected to strip them of their profits more effectively in future and could help benefit communities which have suffered at their hands.

Legislation called the Proceeds of Crime Act has been in place for years which allows police to ask the courts to claim money suspected as profits from crime, with the cash split between the Treasury and the force involved.

That has been used successfully in South Yorkshire, but the system has now been overhauled with extra staff and new working practises in a move intended to produce a dramatic increase in the assets seized from offenders.

South Yorkshire Police now has a team of 15 financial investigators and confiscators, colleagues who approach the same task from different angles to ensure assets like cash, cars or flashy watches can be taken off criminals, alongside work to identify more generalised profits, with courts able to order payments.

A major shift in South Yorkshire has been to base financial investigators in each of the county’s four policing districts for the first time, instead of relying on a centralised team.

That has come on the back of the successful re-introduction of neighbourhood policing and putting CID teams back into the districts, after an experiment in centralising them proved ineffective.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber said the objective of basing financial investigators locally was to allow staff in different roles to work together more efficiently, bound by the geography of the area.

Early indications suggest the system will succeed, with seizures of more than £154,000 in April, compared to £224,000 for the whole of the previous financial year.

At present, money raised from criminals is used to support South Yorkshire’s serious and organised crime unit but talks are to take place with Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, which could result in an alternative arrangement, with cash going back into communities.

Mr Forber said: “As we have embedded neighbourhood police across the force and move from being reactive to proactive, the opportunity to seize cash has increased.

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“It is the start of a journey, I still think there is more we can do.

“I am keen we absolutely go after cash and assets from criminals at every opportunity,” he said.

Legal changes introduced last year allow police to seize the trinkets successful criminals tend to accrue, such as expensive watches and works of art, with South Yorkshire Police already showing signs of success in that field.

The law also allows for banks accounts to be frozen, to allow time to conduct full investigations without the opportunity for offenders to dispose of, or hide, the assets they have.

“Nothing hurts criminals more than having cash taken off them,” he said. “We are absolutely determined off them at every level.

“It is about a police force that is proactive, getting upstream of problems, working hard with neighbourhoods and building on the flow between residents and police.

“We would like to reassure people we have the structure and capability to deal with that. For residents who suspect people in their community are dealing drugs, please tell us so we can do something about it,” he said.

As income from proceeds of crime increase, there may be new options for the future use of the cash.

“We are in discussion with the PCC’s office about how we can use it differently in future, to benefit the community,” he said.