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Intelligence boosts power of the EA

Some years ago the Environ­ment Agency (EA) took the decision to become ‘intelli­gence-led’ in tackling environ­mental crime. In doing so it adopted a way of working that is common across UK law enforcement and based on identified best practice.

Working to the national intelligence model places it as an equivalent with other law enforcement agencies such as the police, National Crime Agency, Driver Vehicle Stand­ards Agency and HM Revenue & Customs.

While this provides partner­ship opportunities, it also means that when we take action it is against the right people for the entirety of their illegal activities.

Criminal opportunity and the financial opportunities it can bring have grown rapidly in the waste industry. The EA’s response has been to profes­sionalise its approach. Critical to its success has been receiv­ing information on suspicious waste activity through its field intelligence officers across England, who proactively gather that information.

Success with this approach is highlighted in the EA’s work to detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. There are approximately 17 million ship­ping containers in the world, each circumnavigating the Earth four times a year. Detecting those laden with waste is a challenge and find­ing those that are illegal waste shipments even more so.

Each time a shipment is stopped for examination, there is a cost to all involved. It is a fine balance to weed out the illegal from the legal, and being able to make informed decisions helps.

waste shipment

waste shipment

EA officers identify sites from where waste is being loaded for export and check their suitability, considering things such as the levels of con­tamination or, in the case of electrical items, the capacity. Should concerns be found at waste sites, future shipments will be targeted for inspection at port to ensure compliance.

In 2016-17, an intelligence-led approach by the EA pre­vented more than 19,000 tonnes of waste from being exported illegally, with a value of £1.1m to UK industry. Work so far in 2017-18 is on course to exceed this figure.

Being able to identify trends in criminal waste behaviour also assists in preventing and disrupting crime. Some of these are opportunistic or market-driven.

Recent inspections of waste bound for export at the ports of Killingholme and Harwich, for example, were undertaken due to the identification of baled waste leaving for eastern Europe illegally. At Harwich, EA officers stopped and inspected 29 trailers, finding 18 of them carrying waste. Nine had incomplete or miss­ing paperwork. More of these port operations are scheduled around UK ports.

More at

Report suspicious activity to either national_intelligence@ uk or anonymously via Crime­stoppers on 0800 555 111

Chris Smith is intelligence manager at the Environment Agency

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