The Chairman advised that moving forward, there would be a Chair’s verbal update and a National Lead Force verbal update in both public and non-public to address key issues not covered elsewhere in the agenda.
· National Lead Force: a report was presented to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners West Midlands Fraud Forum in mid-November which addressed the role of the Force as national lead on Action Fraud. This coincided with a report by West Midlands done in conjunction with Birmingham University which sought to comment on the successes, strategies and shortfalls of addressing economic crime. This received coverage in The Times around fraud and past criticisms around Action Fraud. The Chairman was working with the Force on this to improve how the Force engages with West Midlands around many recommendations from the report and forum, and to ensure appropriate public narrative around this.
· The Home Office was conducting a review of the Strategic Policing Requirements for Police Forces in England and Wales, with an aim to ensure that fraud was more prominently included in the strategic policing requirement; that forces were held to account for performance on fraud; and that appropriate skills and resources were allocated to anti-fraud work.
· The Police Authority Board was considering an invitation to present to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fraud in May 2021.
· The Force was working on the production of a strategic communication and engagement plan to address how the Force positioned itself with other stakeholders around tackling fraud. This was to ensure that the Force was proactive in its communications.
· The Lead Force Operations Room had had its soft launch, with a full launch anticipated in due course to promote the work of the Force to combat fraud.
· There had been a decrease in economic crime relating to COVID-19, which currently accounted for less than 1% of economic crime.
· The Force recently had a two-week campaign for education and awareness around romance fraud.
· The initial Lead Force Operations Room launch was successful, and the Force was optimistic about a broader launch. There would be a push in December to highlight the importance of elevating fraud on PCCs’ agendas and raise awareness of fraud-related crimes.
· Procurement for the new Action Fraud system was ongoing. The soft market testing stage was complete, potential bidders were identified and a business case would be put to the Home Office early next year.
· A spending review bid had been put to the Home Office to improve the capability and capacity across policing, and a response was anticipated for December.
· There had been a push to engage with stakeholders to raise the profile of fraud in Parliament, the public and private sector, as one third of all crime is economic crime.
Deputy Woodhouse sought confirmation on when the strategic engagement plan would be presented to the Economic Crime Committee. The T/Commander advised that the draft had been written by the Director of Communications, and needed to be reviewed by the Commissioner and SMB. Although a release date could not be projected, the Chairman requested that the Force circulate a timeline for completion to the Committee with an aim to circulate the plan before Christmas.
Deputy Woodhouse requested information on the extent of the banks’ involvement in addressing organised crime. The T/Commander noted that the Force had a close relationship with banks. Banks were heavily involved with initiatives such as the national Economic Crime Centre; Operation Recall which prevented victims’ money from going into suspects’ accounts; and Operation Olaf which utilised money trapped in making to good effect in combatting economic crime.