LONDON (Reuters) - A beefed-up national crime force will take on Britain's estimated 6,000 organised crime gangs as well as guard the country's borders and protect children from online predators under a revamp announced on Wednesday.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the new National Crime Agency would be fully up and running by 2013 to fight organised crime that costs Britain up to 40 billion pounds a year.
The agency represents the third attempt in 13 years to create a national body to tackle organised crime.
It will take over from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, formed in 2006 by the former Labour government and which itself replaced the earlier National Crime Squad.
The NCA will be run by a senior chief constable to overcome criticisms that its predecessors had lacked the clout to coordinate rival crime agencies.
"The National Crime Agency will be a crime fighting organisation. It will tackle organised crime, defend our borders, fight fraud and cyber crime, and protect children and young people," May told parliament.
"The NCA will have the ability and the authority to task and co-ordinate the police and other law enforcement agencies.
"All other agencies will work to the NCA's threat assessment and prioritisation, and it will be the NCA's intelligence picture that will drive the response on the ground," May said.
It will incorporate the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and work closely with customs and the Border Agency.
But it will not be responsible for counter-terrorism, where current arrangements will remain unchanged until at least after next year's London Olympic Games, May said.