Organised crime still running rings around police





By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in London

Financial Times, 19 November 2003

Organised crime is a step ahead of Europe’s police forces, senior security officials will be told at an international crime congress this week.

Their success is down to weak co-ordination between European police forces and inadequate liaison between law enforcement agencies and private sector companies.

Serious shortcomings in crime reporting are also seen by law enforcement officials as a weakness in efforts to co-ordinate transnational crime, and will be a big issue at the congress being organised in Dublin tomorrow and Friday by the European Commission, the European police agency Europol and private companies.

According to John Abbott, former director-general of the UK’s National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), who will be chairing the congress, “the criminals have a distinct advantage.

“If we are going to tackle organised crime, we are going to have to share information …We have got to do more because the criminals are running rings around us,” he said.

A draft congress declaration calculates that the global impact of counterfeiting on private sector companies amounted to €450bn (£313bn) in 2000 and that the “figure is still growing”.

Law enforcement agencies have become increasingly aware that private companies are the victims of fraud, intellectual property theft and other scams, but are “reluctant to show it”, Mr Abbott said.

The result is that international crime statistics are inaccurate, and a clear picture of the transnational nature of organised crime does not emerge. The Dublin congress’s draft declaration makes clear: “European crime statistics are not complete without the setting up of effective reporting mechanisms between private and public sectors.”

Discrepancies in intelligence gathering on organised crime have also been revealed as law enforcement agencies in several European countries have established agencies like NCIS.

Senior European police officers and justice ministry officials meeting in Dublin will discuss ways of synchronising the gathering of statistics to allow Europe-wide assessments of crime trends and make it easier to draw comparisons between trends in different countries.

The most recent NCIS threat assessment of serious and organised crime for the UK identifies drug trafficking as “the greatest threat from serious and organised criminals”. The trend among UK drug dealers is to reduce the number of middlemen. This has led to them establishing direct ties to suppliers in Spain and the Netherlands, necessitating extensive cross-border intelligence-sharing between police forces.

Information-sharing is central to confronting organised immigration crime, which has necessitated gathering intelligence on trans-European people smuggling routes and the links between people smugglers and prostitution rackets.

The threat assessment estimates the cost of fraud to the UK at £14bn ( €20bn) annually, and the Dublin congress will focus on the trans-European crimes of fraud, counterfeiting and money laundering as key areas that would benefit from information-sharing.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.