A new report by Europol warns that organised crime groups are increasingly employing violence in pursuit of their criminal objectives, and such violence represents a threat to public security in the EU.
Based on an analysis of contributions made by Member States to Europol in recent years, there has been a rise in the number of violent incidents associated with organised crime. Furthermore, the analysis points to an increasing willingness from criminal groups to resort to lethal violence.
In this report, Europol highlights the factors underpinning this trend and the challenges it poses to law enforcement and develops a set of recommendations.
The involvement in criminal gangs of younger and inexperienced hit men and the accessibility of firearms and explosives, together with violent incidents often perpetrated in crowded public places and broad daylight are considerable threats to public security.
Criminal groups are exploiting large EU ports as transit points, and the streets of the surrounding cities are particularly vulnerable to violence. International organised crime groups have established footholds in and around these ports, where the corruption and intimidation of workers critical to the unloading and storage of illicit commodities, and the competition for distribution are taking place.
The rise in violence in illicit markets can be linked to growing competition among criminal networks. Most drug-related fatal and serious incidences of violence have been reported in the cocaine and cannabis markets, which have recently attracted new players.
The report also points to an increased use of serious violence by organised crime groups to carry out their criminal activities. These violent crimes do not exclusively affect criminals; they target non-criminals including victims of human trafficking, violent robberies, law enforcement officers, lawyers, witnesses and informants, investigative journalists, or uncooperative dock workers.
On the basis of its analysis, Europol has drawn up a set of recommendations to support law enforcement authorities in countering organised crime:
• Proactively anticipate trends and shifts in criminal markets and network structures.
• Adopt a comprehensive step-by-step approach that includes detection and deterrence (including attacking criminal finances at an earlier stage).
• Focus on the processes and resources by which crimes are committed in order to identify points for intervention.
• Continue to promote cooperation at regional and international levels.