Organised Crime: the Latest Figures & Trends
Statistics have the tendency to shock people and the EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) 2013, published by Europol in March 2013, revealed a worrying estimate in relation to the true extent of organised crime. Brace yourselves: in the EU alone, there are currently about 3,600 active organised crime groups, according to the study’s findings.
Putting aside many of the criminal groups that we’ve covered in previous articles – such as the Russian Mafia, Italian Mafia and Colombian cartels, to list only a few (all of which can be found within the Expert Advice section); the realisation of how many other criminal groups exist, far surpasses what we imagine to be many people’s expectations.
The study highlighted that the most significant activity in terms of organised crime continues to be international drug trafficking, with fraud following behind. However the emergence of new criminal activities such as opportunities stemming from the economic crisis, also requires monitoring during the fight against crime.
According to SOCTA 2013, over 30% of organised crime groups are active in more than one area and many of the groups are modelled on a network structure which is perceived to take a sophisticated, business-style approach. In addition, many of the groupings (70% to quote the study) are comprised of members from various nationalities.
In terms of the crimes that present the greatest threats to society, SOCTA 2013 has identified the following areas:
- Facilitation of illegal immigration
- Human trafficking
- Counterfeit goods
- Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) fraud
- Synthetic drugs production and poly-drug trafficking in the EU
- Cyber-crime (which looks set to proliferate)
- And (of course!) money laundering
The report also identified two other emerging areas which include environmental crime, in particular illicit waste trafficking, as well as energy fraud.
One of the trends that caught our eye from this study is the reported surge in the counterfeiting of health and safety products – which all boils down to yet more products for consumers to lose their trust in.
Traditionally, counterfeit goods arrived in the form of Luis Vuitton handbags and designer watches but after identifying the consumers’ desire to grab a bargain in the global credit crisis, the production of counterfeit goods appears to have increased significantly, and expanded to include the more everyday items such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Not only are these products below standard but they can also cause health issues – ‘treatment drugs’ can be non-effective for example, and many of the goods can be toxic to both the environment and to the user themselves.
What could emerge (if it hasn’t already) is that such goods begin to infiltrate into the regulated pharmaceutical industry, thus creating public mistrust in certain brands.
The Message is Clear
One of the key messages that can be found in the discussion of organised crime concerns its never-ending evolution; and the sad, undeniable fact that such groups are continually able to detect new opportunities in which to exploit. As the report concludes – most of the areas and considerations which are mentioned have already been discussed before.
However from a personal view, the very figure estimating the amount of organised crime groups operating in the EU (we’ll repeat it again for dramatic emphasis – 3,600) only reinforces the fact that law enforcement agencies, other organisations, financial institutions and the public themselves need to take serious action for there to be any hope of disrupting criminals and their illegal activities.