Soca: Highs and lows of Serious Organised Crime Agency

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The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) is to be replaced by a new national crime-fighting agency as part of a major policing shake-up.

What have been the highs and lows of Soca's work since it was set up in 2006 with a remit that covered tackling drug trafficking and firearm offences, among other crimes?

2006

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) is set up to unite experts from the police, customs and immigration services.

The then prime minister, Tony Blair, says the new force will tackle the "brutal and sophisticated" criminal gangs of the 21st Century.

It is announced that the agency will start with 4,200 staff - about half of them criminal investigators and half analysis and intelligence - and a budget of £400m.

2007

The agency says it has seized one fifth of Europe's cocaine supply in its first year of operation.

In its annual report it says 73 tonnes of cocaine - with a street value of £3bn - were uncovered, it prevented 35 potential murders and drew up a list of 1,600 crime chiefs.

2008

Staff at Soca publicly say the agency is not arresting enough criminals and is too bureaucratic.

The criticism prompts Soca chief Bill Hughes to say those who were critical had behaved in a "disgraceful" way and were "denigrating" colleagues, adding that progress was being made after a "very complex" merger.

Media reports quote some staff at the agency as saying it had not arrested any of its 130 key targets, although Mr Hughes denies this, saying 36 had been detained, with the possibility of more arrests awaiting overseas.

In its annual report, Soca admits that progress against crime had been uneven. The number of operations and projects mounted by the agency against Class A drugs is shown to be 195 compared with 215 in the 12 months before.

2009

May - Soca says the international cocaine market is "in retreat" after a year of successful operations, explaining that its undercover work has helped send wholesale prices soaring.

It says prices per kilo have risen from £39,000 in 2008 to over £45,000 (50,000 euros), although street prices have remained stable.

June - Figures show that for every £15 of public money Soca spends, just £1 is recovered from criminals. Research suggested it had recovered £78m from crime bosses, while costing taxpayers £1.2bn.

Its chairman, Sir Stephen Lander, says seizing assets is not the "be-all and end-all" and says the body had also stopped gangs using an additional £460m.

2010

Home Secretary Theresa May announces that Soca will be replaced by a new national crime-fighting agency in 2012 as part of a major policing shake-up.

She says the new agency will include organised crime, border policing, and the child exploitation and online protection centre (Ceop).

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