Transnational Crime Units (TCU)

In order to better address the menace of transnational organized crimes, including drug trafficking, UNODC, DPA/UNOWAS, DPKO and INTERPOL launched in 2009 the West African Coast Initiative (WACI), to support the implementation of the ECOWAS Action Plan to Address the Growing Problem of Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa. WACI strives to create Transnational Crime Units (TCU), meant to enhance national and international coordination, as well as to enable intelligence-based investigations. TCUs are elite inter-agency units, trained and equipped to fight transnational organized crime and to coordinate their activities in an international framework.

As of 2016, TCUs are fully operational in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, and in the start-up phase in Côte d'Ivoire. Very good operational results have been achieved by these units, translated in large quantity of drugs seized and criminals prosecuted and convicted. All the venues are being screened to expand the WACI programme implementation beyond the initial five targeted States, to serve as a model for all ECOWAS members.

In order to enhance national coordination, TCU staff are seconded by existing priority law enforcement agencies. Screened officials from the relevant agencies are physically integrated into one unit, working closely together on a daily basis. Hence, the expertise from different law enforcement sectors will be pooled in one unit, creating positive synergies that will lead to more efficient law enforcement activities.

TCUs forms close ties with prosecutorial services or include prosecutors in order to enhance the effectiveness of their investigations. Moreover, benefiting from the use of UNODC tools, such as the go Case System, or INTERPOL tools such as I24/7 system, the TCU supports intelligence gathering/sharing, intelligence analyses and intelligence based investigations. Finally, TCUs act as the national coordinating focal point for international cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime. Close cooperation with or integration of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) is also a core feature of the TCU concept.

Through the creation of a TCU, national and international cooperation is centralized in one inter-agency unit, making use of a wide array of law enforcement expertise and benefiting from the synergies of this cooperation. As experiences in the Pacific Region, the Caribbean and Central and Southeast Asia and the recent results from Liberia and Sierra Leone have shown, this can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement operations aimed at fighting transnational organized crime. The integrity and protection of information is a key component in the fight against transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. Therefore, TCU staff are vetted before recruitment and with regular intervals thereafter. The aim is to create an elite unit with a team spirit responsible for the investigation of the most complex transnational crime cases .

At the same time, TCU staff are trained and well equipped to efficiently carry out their tasks. To this end, TCUs receive strong logistic support and staff receive mentoring and extensive training sessions in the areas of:

  • Intelligence gathering and intelligence analyses
  • Management of information and informants
  • Criminal investigation
  • Crime scene management
  • Risk assessment in organized crime
  • Technical surveillance
  • Operational planning
  • International human rights standards for law enforcement agencies
  • Specialized and tactical skills
  • Advanced computer training
  • The go Case System training course

The objective of this extensive training is for the TCU to be able to use its equipment, its pooled expertise and its knowledge to:

  • Provide decision makers the latest and most accurate intelligence, analyses and statistics for strategy and policy development
  • Independently investigate cases of transnational organized crime and effectively build cases for prosecution based on solid evidence
  • Apply cost-effective principles of intelligence led-investigation in the fight against transnational organized crime
  • Act as national focal point for international/regional investigations
  • Enhance regional cooperation