30,000 criminals are members of organised drugs, guns and fraud gangs

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At least 30,000 criminals are members of organised gangs, including teenage children, a Government report has disclosed.

Officials have produced the first detailed map of gangsters and their activity in England and Wales – including drugs, guns, fraud and people smuggling networks.

It is estimated that around 4,000 gangs are costing the economy up to £40 billion a year.

The joint Home Office and Cabinet Office report found that people traffickers think the UK is a soft touch when it comes to getting illegal immigrants across the border.

Meanwhile, difficulty in securing the convictions of the Mr Bigs of the crime world has led to adopting the so-called "Al Capone" approach, by targeting criminals for tax evasion.

A new pilot project involving officials from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will launch later this year aimed at increasing the number of gang bosses brought to book with tax laws.

It said criminal gangs were using new technology to commit crime, and said the recession would create "new opportunities" for organised criminals.

The numbers of young people joining gangs remains "real cause for concern", the report says, with children exploited as drug runners or dealers, or used as gun "minders".

Police chiefs acknowledge that criminal networks in Britain do not resemble the "mafia" and that today's organised crime networks are "run like multi-national businesses".

The Home Office announced a 25-point action plan to tackle serious and organised crime after the first nationwide audit of its kind revealed the sheer scale of the problem facing police.

One police chief said that a gap has developed in the past few years between the scale of organised crime and law enforcement agencies' ability to tackle it.

However ministers denied the new measures contained in the report were a tacit admission that the Government had taken its "eye off the ball".continues here

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