The National Crime Agency (NCA) became operational today. It is intended to lead the national response to cut serious and organised crime such as cross-border criminal networks, cyber crime, border policing and child protection.
NCA director general Keith Bristow said the agency would not operate as a covert organisation like SOCA and would be visible to the public. It will have a more high-profile, police-led response than its predecessor, which focused on intelligence gathering.
"We're going to be visible," he said. "We want the public to know who we are, what we do, what we're delivering, to understand the serious and organised crime threat that affects every neighbourhood and every citizen throughout the UK."
He added: "Frankly, we want the criminals to know who we are, because we want them to fear our attention."
The 10-strong NCA comms team brings together the press offices covering areas now part of the NCA’s remit, including SOCA, and other bodies such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the National Cyber Crime Unit.
It will be led by director of comms Jean Ward, a former head of the crime and police comms unit at the Home Office.
An NCA spokeswoman said the body would aim to be "open and transparent" about its activities and raise awareness to "get the public on board".
She said this would mean publicising its successes more prominently and engaging with the public through social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
The new body has been criticised as a rebranding of existing organisations, with shadow policing minister David Hanson saying the NCA "doesn’t match the Government’s hype", though the spokeswoman rejected the claim.
Steve Edwards, the deputy managing partner of public affairs agency Interel, said the NCA, which has been billed in the press as Britain's answer to America's FBI, should make its public position clear to be successful in managing its image.
"The NCA should be careful to stake out its own position and don’t let the press get carried away with the FBI tag, which brings with it the danger of being seen to overpromise," he said.
"It does have more powers than its predecessor organisations but like other recent mergers, such as the Competition and Mergers Authority, will be expected to do more for less. So it needs to stake out its own public position clearly and work within that framework."