59 potential victims of trafficking rescued in fight against organised crime

Handout photo issued by Aaron McCracken Photography of Director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice Claire Archibold (right) and DS Rachel Shields of the PSNI at the launch of the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) Annual Report.
Handout photo issued by Aaron McCracken Photography of Director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice Claire Archibold (right) and DS Rachel Shields of the PSNI at the launch of the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) Annual Report.
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More than £1 million was seized and 59 potential trafficking victims were rescued last year as part of Northern Ireland's fight against organised crime.

The latest Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) annual report reveals that last year saw 7,490 drug seizure incidents, the disruption of 72 gangs, while one million cigarettes, 9.2kg of class A drugs and 92 offensive weapons were prevented from entering Northern Ireland.

The report, published on Wednesday, also sounded a warning about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

It predicts that new differences in tariffs between Northern Ireland and the Republic bring the potential for increased levels of smuggling and other criminal activity.

The OCTF assessment is that a no-deal scenario will lead to changes in criminal behaviours, with the emergence of potential new criminal markets for previously legitimate commodities.

Claire Archbold, director of safer communities at the Department of Justice, said the OCTF will continue to target gangs to make the region safer.

"We are sending out a clear message that organised criminals will be pursued through the courts and their assets will be stripped," she said.

"These criminals offer nothing to the wider community and the Organised Crime Task Force remains determined to confront their every action, working in partnership to create a safe community where we respect the law and each other.

"I want to congratulate all the agencies for their dedication and professionalism in making serious inroads in the fight against these organised criminal gangs.

"Their commitment is in stark contrast to those who would exploit the vulnerable in our society."