The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is to fund a specialist police unit dedicated to combating insurance fraud, set up through a police-private sector partnership.
The unit, supported by the National Fraud Authority, and operated by the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Directorate, will be funded for the next three years by members of the ABI, and will be subject to an evaluation after two years.
It will provide additional operational capability to the Directorate, focusing solely on tackling insurance fraud, a crime valued at £2bn per year – which adds an extra £44 a year to each premium paid by consumers.
The unit, which aims to go live on 1 January 2012, will consist of 35 specialist fraud detectives and police support staff and will provide a dedicated response to threats posed to the insurance industry by both organised gangs and opportunist fraudsters.
The key focus of the unit will be enforcement and prevention strategies designed to tackle current issues. This will be achieved working in collaboration with the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and the industry funded Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).
While embedded within the force’s Economic Crime Directorate, the unit will be able to capitalise on the City of London Police’s wider policing resources as well as its status as the national lead force for fraud, enabling it to co-ordinate support from UK law enforcement and assist individual forces with their own insurance fraud investigations.
The unit will also work in close partnership with the insurance industry on their continued campaign to prevent insurance fraud and recover the proceeds of crime.
A strategic board containing representatives from the City of London Police, ABI, National Fraud Authority (NFA) and Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) will meet quarterly to set priorities for the unit informed by an annual threat assessment and analysis of insurance fraud trends.
The unit builds on the operating model established for the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Card Unit (DCPCU) where the priorities are set by industry, performance is transparent and reviewed regularly but the operational independence of the police is preserved.
The DCPCU’s unique bank-sponsored police squad contains officers seconded from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police, and in the nine years since its formation has successfully targeted organised crime gangs and saved an estimated £370 million.
The City of London Police sees this as positive step forward in building closer relationships between policing and the private sector, paving the way for other specialist units and, potentially, national economic crime teams to be created through similar funding arrangements in other sectors.
Confirmation of the unit came days after the ABI revealed it was setting up an Insurance Fraud Register to maintain details of known insurance fraudsters and identify anyone who fails to declare a previous fraudulent claim.
Adrian Leppard, the Commissioner of the City of London Police, said: “This initiative is the culmination of months of hard work with the insurance industry, and represents another important landmark for private sector funding in policing, something that we should actively encourage within the current financial climate.
“The banking industry has been rewarded for its investment in combating payment card fraud, with savings of £370m in the past eight years. I now look forward to working with the ABI, IFB and the NFA to ensure the insurance industry benefits in the same way from funding its own specialist police unit.”