The biggest threat from Brexit?

As the UK comes to terms with the enormity of its Brexit decision there is much debate on just how it will affect the lives of people in the UK, the European Union and beyond. There is little doubt that there will be many economic and political implications, all of which are being played out in the media, but perhaps the biggest single threat that is largely being ignored is the risk to the safety of the citizens of the UK and Europe from serious crime and terrorism.

This week marks the first anniversary of the terror attack in the Tunisian beach resort of Sousse when Islamic State gunman Seiffeddine Rezgui opened fire on holidaymakers killing 38 people, including 30 British tourists. The fact that the anniversary of this horrific event falls almost to the day that Britain has decided to leave the EU is particularly poignant, as there can be no stronger example of the need for the UK to remain at the forefront of tackling gun crime and terrorism on an international front.

Lest we forget, it is not only Tunis that has exemplified the carnage that can be caused by the use of firearms in the hands of the wrong people. In 2015 alone the atrocities that were littered across the calendar; Charlie Hebdo, Garissa, Tunis, Copenhagen and Paris show that more terrorist attacks are now being carried out with assault rifles than with any other device.

In response to these terrible incidents, there has been a renewed impetus for all countries to develop better strategies to prevent further gun attacks taking place, and to work together in order to do so. In November of last year, the European Commission announced an action plan to tackle the illegal trafficking and use of firearms both in Europe and beyond. A key element of this plan is to further develop the ability for all nations to work together, to share intelligence and to take joint action when necessary.

The United Kingdom has for many years been a significant player in contributing to international activity to tackle the criminal use and supply of firearms. It is fair to say that since the introduction of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) in 2008 the UK has one of the most effective, comprehensive and integrated capabilities anywhere in the world to tackle the threat posed by illegal firearms. This is one of the reasons that the UK has not yet suffered a mass gun attack of the nature experienced elsewhere, despite several plots to carry out such an attack being developed they have all been foiled by the excellent law enforcement activity that has depended on the sharing of intelligence with other countries.

As well as protecting the citizens of the UK, we should not underestimate the enormously positive impact the law enforcement agencies, security services and independent experts of the UK have on helping the other countries of Europe to reduce the threat posed by illegal firearms. If anything were to happen as a result of Brexit to reduce the joint working that currently exists between the UK and Europe in this field it would clearly be extremely detrimental to the safety and security of all citizens of the EU and the UK.

One of the greatest threats to the security of Europe that has been identified by the European Commission is the potential movement of post-conflict weapons from the Western Balkans into Europe for the purposes of crime and terrorism. This threat extends to the UK just as much as any other European country. Much work has been carried out recently to reduce this threat by helping countries in this region to tackle the threat within their own borders, to establish Firearms Focal Points (FFP’s) in each country and to share ballistic intelligence regionally and within the EU. This activity has been supported through the good agencies of the United Nations, Europol and Interpol. The UK has been heavily involved in these activities and it is important that the current momentum is not in any way lost or diminished.

Some things transcend politics; gun crime, arms trafficking and terrorism are three such things. The good work in this field must go on, and it has never been more important to put the need for collaborative working and international cooperation right at the top of the agenda of issues that cannot be allowed to be negatively affected by Brexit.

Whatever the current political differences in Europe right now, it is clear that fighting crime and terrorism requires cooperation, not division. It is, therefore, incumbent on all of those involved in the ongoing political process to keep their eye on the ball during the current period of uncertainty and to ensure that this critical issue remains at the forefront of negotiations and activity, both now and in the future.

Image – Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Newsweek Article on Arquebus – Orlando Shooting and Using Ballistics Intelligence

Newsweek have published an article highlighting the importance of intelligence sharing and a joined up system of work in the fight against the illegal use of firearms. Arquebus’ Project EFFECT study published last month looked at these issues around information sharing as a means of reducing the threat.

It is vital to have an effective means of intelligence development and sharing that can identify emerging threats and risks posed by individuals, crime gangs and terrorist organizations. It is vital that law enforcement organizations be supported by appropriate legislation that seeks to not only prosecute those who are involved in the use of illegal firearms, but also those who are involved in their illegal supply and distribution.

The perpetrator of the Orlando shooting on the 12th June legally purchased weapons and had on more than one occasion, been interviewed about his possible connections to terrorism, according to Newsweek. However, he was still able to obtain firearms legally.

Despite the relative difference in scale between Europe and the U.S. regarding the availability of firearms, it is our belief that what is required is the development of a ‘ballistic intelligence’ system of work that brings together all available information on the criminal use of firearms in fast time. This information can then be communicated to law enforcement partners to help not only detect crimes, but more importantly to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Source – Newsweek
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SIO Decision Making article by Paul James Published in NPCC Journal of Homicide & Major Incident Investigation

Arquebus Director, Paul James recently contributed to the National Police Chief’s Council journal of Homicide & Major Incident Investigation. Paul has 30 years operational experience having retired from Avon and Somerset Police at the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent in October 2012. He was also the programme manager and unit head of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) until co-founding Arquebus in 2012. Paul’s article covers his experience in these roles and is titled ‘SIO Decision Making: Lessons from the Public and Private Sector’.

This article examines the importance of using effective prioritisation strategies in SIO decision-making and how risk can be evaluated and minimised against a background of increasing budgetary pressures. I have included practical examples from the field of ballistics intelligence gathering and gun crime investigation in order to highlight the potential to develop policies that can assist in the prioritisation of investigative activities. I also give my personal view on the value of increased interaction between the police service and private industry.

You can download Volume 11, Issue 1, May 2016 Edition of the NPCC Journal of Homicide and Major Incident Investigation here, Paul James’ article runs from Page 31.

Researchers call for Europe-wide ballistic information sharing network to tackle gun crime

All countries across Europe are being urged to establish special ‘Firearms Focal Points’ to collect, study and share information about firearms and ballistics to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun crime and terrorism.

That’s one of the key findings following a 15-month multi-agency research project led by Coventry University. The EFFECT Project, which launched in February last year, looked to establish a clearer picture of the prevalence of gun crime across Europe and identify initiatives and interventions to tackle the problem.

Recommendations from the project, which was funded by the European Union and supported by the United Nations Development Programmes South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), were presented to members of the European Parliament, European police chiefs and heads of international law enforcement agencies, including Interpol and Europol, in Brussels today (Wednesday May 25).

While researchers looked in detail at countries in South Eastern Europe, the recommendations are relevant to all European countries, regardless of whether they are members of the EU.

Coventry University’s Dr Helen Poole, one of the project leaders, said:

“In South Eastern Europe we found that investigators  and prosecutors require additional ballistics intelligence support and training that would  enable them to understand the positive impact that ballistics information can deliver in solving crimes and tackling terrorism.

“Countries also need to have the necessary technology and procedures in place that would enable them to further reduce the availability and use of illegal firearms. If each country created a single ‘Firearms Focal Point’ to gather, analyse and then share information not only about the firearms, but also its pertaining ballistic material, with their counterparts across South East Europe, and beyond, this would be a major leap forward in protecting communities. That is why a proposal is being put forward towards the establishment of the South East Europe Ballistic Information Network.

“Enabling that network to operate alongside a proposed EU-wide network, with ballistic information being shared between countries through agreed protocols and managed by Europol, which already handles criminal intelligence to improve effectiveness and cooperation between states, would allow links between gun crime, criminals and the firearms trafficking across the continent to be identified.”

As part of the research Arquebus, a UK based company specialising in ballistics intelligence, was asked to examine 1,000 gun cartridge cases provided by the Serbian Police Directorate from previous cases in Serbia, and examine them further, working with the country’s National Criminalistic Technical Centre.

Arquebus Director Matt Lewis said: 

“In our examination of cartridge cases in Serbia, using Ballistic analysis systems not currently available in the country, we were able to identify connections relating to around 50 shootings, a considerable number of which were previously unknown. We also compared the results against a number of ballistic databases in other countries and identified potential links with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Sweden.

“Firearms are used by criminals on multiple occasions both internally within a country and across international borders. Developing an accurate picture of their use and how they are trafficked is vital and is in the interest of all citizens across Europe and beyond. A Europe-wide ballistic information network will help further reduce deaths and injuries caused by the illegal use of firearms for crimes and terrorism.

“Understanding more about where they originate from, how they move within countries and cross-border, and have been used before will enable the UK to work with other countries to help tackle the problem at source, rather than at our border.”

Further information about the Effect Project, including the agencies involved and the main findings and recommendations report, is available at this link.

Former NCA Director General joins Arquebus

Press Release – 19th May 2016 Keith Bristow QPM, former Director General of the UK’s National Crime Agency, has been appointed as non-executive Chairman of Arquebus Solutions Limited. Arquebus is a UK-based company working globally with Governments, NGO’s, Intergovernmental Organisations and businesses to provide specialist capabilities relating to both the criminal and legal use of […]