The European Union tightens the circle around the trafficking of minors and migrants

In mid-October 2017, a far-reaching police operation was developed at European Union level, which facilitated the rescue of 34 minors and 1,072 adults who were in a vulnerable situation or potential victims of exploitation. In the same operation 16 people suspected of people trafficking were arrested and a range of links were identified for the smuggling of migrants, the falsification of documents and drug trafficking. A simultaneous operation against the promotion of irregular migration to reception centres allowed the added detention of 74 suspects, of whom 4 were for migrant trafficking.

The week-long joint action against the trafficking of children aimed to gain an insight into the phenomenon, safeguard the children and interrupt the activities of organised groups of criminals. Under the coordination of Europol and with the support of Frontex and Interpol, 19 European countries gathered together and analysed the movements of over 240,000 people, victims of people trafficking. The actions were mainly focused on points of interest for sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced crime, the reception centres, the main points for crossing borders, etc.

In this operation 34 minors were detected in situations that could potentially involve the trafficking and exploitation of minors. For example, there was the case of a boy who arrived at an important International airport with a fake passport, accompanied by an adult who had no relationship with him, pretending to be his father. Other examples include a migrant who was a minor in a reception centre who, they suspect, had been exploited sexually while he was migrating towards Europe.

Furthermore, 1,072 potential adult victims and 115 suspects were detected, 16 of these being arrested. Small quantities of medication, fake documents and mobile devices were confiscated. In cooperation with Europol, the state authorities are carrying out an in-depth investigation into these cases.

Simultaneously, the police authorities of 17 member states and 5 third countries united in an exercise led by intelligence investigations to discover the different case types of irregular immigration and other criminal activities in reception and asylum centres. The objective was to improve the intelligence framework, identifying key networks and modus operandi of criminal groups, interrupting, whenever possible, their activities in and around these centres.

Migrants tend to spend a lot of time in reception centres and are prone to become victims of criminal groups. During these investigations the movements of over 210,000 migrants were checked and 74 persons were arrested for a range of criminal activities, 4 of whom were suspected of smuggling migrants. For example, a smuggler was captured after participating in the illegal transportation of migrants from Greece to other EU countries. Another facilitator was detained on suspicion of providing EU documents to immigrants.

Europol supported all the competent authorities responsible for the application of the law by establishing an operative coordination centre in its headquarters and providing occasional support for state agencies. The so-called Operation Dragon is the fourth series of the Cycle of Policies of the EU for 2014-2017, which addresses serious International organised crime. Operation Dragon focuses on particular aspects of organised crime and key criminal infrastructures in the EU and beyond.


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Great economic inequalities cause lower levels of subjective security


The latest Edition of the Polizei Newsletter echoes a study of the relationship between economic inequalities and fear of crime in Europe[1].

Based on a prior research project, it was already plainly obvious that there was a relationship between inequalities in accordance with the level of income both in the levels of fear of crime and the use of violence. This is not so in accordance with the wealth of a society, considered globally, which does not seem to have any direct relationship with specific levels of fear of crime. In the same social context, the research had also pointed out that social structure (a higher or lower degree of immigration and minorities) and the existing social capital in a country could contribute to a higher or lower level of fear of crime (like more informal social control, less fear).

Individually, gender, age and disability or illnesses have also been related to factors with a significant influence on fear of crime, although the levels of crime related to such groups are lower than the rest of the population. Feeling weak in the face of the consequences of crime makes them feel insecure. There are also studies which speak of a greater fear of crime among members of minority ethnic groups. Lifestyle also influences the level of security; curiously, those who do more risk-related activities are the ones who feel more secure.[2]

This study was based on questions from the European Social Questionnaire, in its fourth Edition in 2008. Questions related to crime and security were kept in mind: “How safe do you feel walking out alone at night?”, “How often are you afraid of being robbed at home?”, “How often do you feel afraid of being victim of a violent crime?” To have references of income inequality they used the Gini coefficient from Eurostat, the crime data was also from Eurostat and the socioeconomic development data was obtained from the Human development index (HDI).

There results were a 90.9 per cent differences owing to individual differences, but the rest − 9.1 per cent− were due to the peculiarities of the country. Most countries with a high level of inequality present high levels of fear of crime and little subjective security. But it is important to stress that, in the countries with most inequality, it is the native majority that has most fear of crime and not the minorities, which, in principle, are most vulnerable. If, as a sole reference, we use the level of wealth of a country, there are no substantial differences in fear of crime at noteworthy levels. It is as if, in cases of maximum inequality, most fear that the minorities at the lowest levels of society are more easily prone to crime against the majority. But it is not the mere existence of minorities that generates this fear, as reflected by the fact that the percentage of non-community citizens in the country does not affect, for its own sake, the majority’s fear of crime.

[1] Publicat a l’European Journal of Criminology (2017), vol. 14 (2) 221-241.

[2] Vid. Crowl, J.N. i Battin, J.R. (2017). “Fear of crime and the police: Exploring lifestyle and individual determinants among university studies”, a Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles. Vol 90(3), pàg. 195 a 214.


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Internet of Things: when electrical appliances become the object of cyber attacks

With a minimum on 20 thousand million devices predicted to be connected to Internet by 2020, Internet of Things is here to stay. Although it has many undeniably positive effects, the related risks and threats are multiple and are evolving very quickly.

For this reason, ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) and Europol have joined forces to address these security challenges along with members of the private sector, police and security sector, the Community Emergency Response Team (CSIRT), the general public and academia.

Internet of Things is a broad and diverse ecosystem in which devices and interconnected services gather, exchange and process data to dynamically adapt to a context. This means that our cameras, televisions, washers and heating systems are “intelligent” and create new opportunities for our way of working, interacting and communicating, and as devices react and adapt to us.

It is important to understand the need to secure these connected devices and develop and implement appropriate security measures to protect the Internet of Things from cybernetic threats. Apart from technical measures, the adoption of Internet of Things has created many legal and legislative challenges, which are new and have far-reaching and complex effects. To address such challenges, cooperation between different sectors and between different actors is essential.

The work of Europol, along with the determination of all pertinent international actors to ensure the numerous benefits of the Internet of Things can be fully appreciated, together address the security challenges and the fight against the illegal use of these devices, making cyberspace a safer place for all:

  • The need for more cooperation and the participation of multiple interest groups to deal with inoperability, as well as security problems, especially with the emerging development of the 4.0 industry, autonomous vehicles and the arrival of 5G.
  • How to ensure that the final device can become technically difficult and expensive to acquire, the focus must therefore be to secure the architecture and the underlying infrastructure, creating trust and security in different networks and domains.
  • There is the need to create stronger incentives to address security problems related to the Internet of Things. This means achieving an optimal balance between opportunity and risk in a market in which scalability and time to market prevail, placing security as a differentiating commercial advantage.
  • To efficiently and effectively investigate the criminal abuse of the Internet of Things, deterrence is another dimension which requires close cooperation between the application of the law, the CSIRT community, the security community and judicial authority.
  • This creates an urgent need for the application of the law to develop the necessary technical skills and experience to successfully combat the fight against cybercrime related to the Internet of Things.
  • These efforts must be complimented by increasing awareness of end-users of the security risks of devices.
  • Taking advantage of initiatives and existing frameworks, a multidisciplinary focus is required to combine and complement actions at a legislative, regulating and political level, and the technical level to secure the ecosystem of the Internet of Things.


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New modus operandi in migrant smuggling which puts them at risk

It is increasingly difficult to cross borders and avoid the radars of police authorities. For this reason, smugglers of migrants are developing riskier ways of transporting irregular migrants in countries targeted within the European Union.

Some of the most recent trends related to migrant smuggling have been published in the latest report of the special edition of the EuropeanMonitoring Teamd’Europol:

• The reappearance of the alternative route via the Black Sea, mainly to go from Turkey to Romania.

• The use of recreational vessels(mainly yachts) to smuggle migrants from Turkey to Italy.

• The EU as an area of passage for irregular immigrants who are aiming to get to the USA or Canada.

• The increase in arrivals via the western Mediterranean route to Spain.

• Dangerous methods of hiding immigrants in airtight containers and vans, or vehicle engine compartments.

Riskier methods

These latest trends warrant special attention because of their potential impact on the lives of migrants. Security forces have confirmed a growing number of incidents which indicate attempts to hide immigrants in very dangerous ways in vehicles across bordering localities.

The most frequently used method is still the use of lorries and vans to smuggle migrants. The cramped conditions, the lack of air and movement at great speed to avoid a police response are only some of the dangers involved in road-related smuggling.

One of the methods of transport detected more recently is to hide irregular migrants in engine compartments as they cross borders. Before approaching border crossing points, immigrants place themselves in the compartment of the vehicle used to transport them. The immigrants are hidden in the upper part of the engine of the vehicle to make use of the space available between the engine and the bonnet. The method is extremely dangerous and the lives of migrants who cross the border in this way may be at risk.

Irregular immigrants travel with the smuggler most of the journey and are only hidden in this way when crossing borders. An example shows that for this service, migrants had to pay about 7000 Euros for the journey from Turkey to Austria. These events demonstrate that immigrant smuggling continues to be a very attractive business to criminal networks.

Awareness raising of emerging tendencies

Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) follows these rapidly developing trends to improve the level of specialised support and allow for the application of the law throughout the EU and fight against this activity more efficiently. Effective action requires international cooperation between law-enforcement agents. For this reason, the EMSC periodically publishes a document called European monitoring report (EPMT). It began exactly two years ago and has just produced its 300th edition. The EPMT is a valuable reference document to give support to the application of the law and to authorities in their decision-making processes.

This special edition provides a series of statistics and new concepts related to organised smuggling. It also makes reference to the main routes and modus operandi currently used by immigrant smugglers, the contribution of member states of the EU and members involved in the EPMT, the activities and capabilities of Europol, as well as the path to follow.

More information about latest trends can be found at infografia EPMT.


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Crimes recorded by the Ertzaintza continue to fall

ErtzainaOver recent years, polices forces from other areas have published recorded crime data, with a a notable downward trend in crimes committed. The Basque country’s police force, the Ertzaintza, with the publication of its data, serves to confirm this reduction in crime.

Criminal offences known to the Ertzaintza in 2016 amounted to 81,355 – 11,554 in Álava, 48,213 in Biscay and 21,568 in Gipuzkoa.If we analyse the 2012-2016 period, we can establish that that figures have gradually dropped every year:

Number of crimes
2012 90.653
2013 88.818
2014 86.783
2015 83.996
2016 81.355
Source: Own elaboration of data from the Ertzaintza

Of these 81,355 criminal offences recorded in 2016, 41 are homicides, 5,235 are assaults, 61,790 are crimes against property and 357 are crimes against sexual freedom.

Furthermore, if we bear in mind arrests carried out by the Ertzaintza, we see an evolution which involves falling percentage figures similar to those of criminal activity:

Number of arrests
2012 8,243
2013 7,590
2014 6,891
2015 5,964
2016 5,247
Source: Own elaboration of data from the Ertzaintza

Effectively, in 2016 there was the lowest number of arrests. Of these, 712 took place in a Álava, 2,694 in Biscay and 1,841 in Gipuzkoa.

Similarly, the Ertzaintza also publish data related to investigations carried out in the three provinces of the Basque country. In this case, the investigations carried out by the police force continue to rise during the 2012-2016 period:

Number of investigations
2012 14,468
2013 15,321
2014 15,360
2015 17,082
2016 20,782
Source: Own elaboration of data from the Ertzaintza

As can be seen, there is a steady increase in investigations, although in 2014 they remain stable and, on the other hand, in 2016 there is a noticable rise.

Concerning the rate of criminal offences per one thousand inhabitants in the context of each province, Ertzaintza data reveal very low rates:

Rate of criminal offences
2015 2016
Álava 38.63 36.56
Biscay 43.05 42.58
Gipuzkoa 32.86 30.77
Source: Own elaboration of data from the Ertzaintza

The rate of criminal offences per thousand inhabitants in Spain as a whole in 2015 was 43.69, and 43.21 in 2016.


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A joint response to crime against intellectual property

CopyrightOn 19 September 2017, the first Europol conference to address crime against intellectual property began in Anvers (Belgium).

A total of 400 lawyers, experts in security and representatives of different industrial sectors of over 42 countries attended the opening of this conference. The organisers indicated that the purpose of the conference was to review new crime trends and propose strategies to apply the law and good practices in anything related to crime against intellectual property, via the study of operational cases and industrial prospects.

According to a study elaborated by the European Union Intellectual Property Office de (EUIPO), violation of intellectual property is a significant phenomenon in expansion. International commerce of fake products represents 2.5% of commerce worldwide, or in total figures: 388 billion Euros.1 As an example, this is the equivalent to the GDP of Austria. The impact of piracy is particularly high within the European Union, representing 5% of the imports of member states, or in total figures: 85 billion Euros.2

Because of the potential profit and the relatively low risk of possible legal consequences, piracy processes continue to evolve and will be more and more sophisticated. It is for this reason that the conference brought together people from different sectors, environments and countries to generate new knowledge and develop tangible measures to fight against piracy on a global scale.

Irrespective of future courses of action of Europol in this context, it is indeed relevant to explain the consequences of this type of crime, and stress the measures and actions that the European Agency has taken so far to combat them.

The main consequences of crimes against intellectual property are that they reduce the income of affected companies. The resulting adverse social and economic effects of those companies which are victims of such crime include the loss of employment and the livelihood of thousands of people. There are also other kinds of collateral damage, like that of fake products which are manufactured without taking into consideration the health and safety regulations of the EU, which means that they may be dangerous for consumers. The revenue of state members may also be affected by forgery and piracy, which might have an impact on innovation and investment, impede economic growth and reduce the creation of wealth.3

To promote the fight against forgery and piracy on line, in 2016 Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) united to create the International Property Crime Coordination Centre (IPC3), which operates within Europol.

To give an example of the social costs of crimes against intellectual property, falsification of clothes in the EU costs 43.3 billion Euros in losses to companies of the sector, which translates to losses of 8.1 billion in revenue for the states and 518,281 jobs.4

1 Europol (2017). EXPERTS GATHER TO COLLECTIVELY RESPOND TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CRIME. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Sep. 2017].

2 OECD/EUIPO (2016). Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact. [online] Paris: OECD Publishing, p.5. Available at: Economic_Impact_study/Mapping_the_Economic_Impact_en.pdf [Accessed 20 Sep. 2017].

3 Europol. (2017). Intellectual property crime. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].

4 Europol. (2017). Intellectual property crime. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].


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Security meetings in France

Since 2013, the whole of France[1] has held security meetings which facilitate dialogue between citizens and services which provide security. The police, the “gendarmerie”, the fire service, the prefecture, civil protection and road safety services, and all actors who contribute to security present their professions, the materials they use, work techniques and the prerequisites of candidates to enter such professions.

These workshops mobilise almost 300,000 people and provide an excellent occasion for information exchanges and also for the general public to commit to its own security and that of its environment. It is an opportunity to better understand the mission of security services and to discover these professions. At the same time, it gives the general public the ability to more competently prevent everyday dangers (crime, traffic and domestic accidents, etc) as well as improve their reaction when exceptional situations have occurred.

This year, the general public will have attended a range of demonstrations and will have participated in some of them (exercises coordinated between different services, freeing of vehicles, life-saving activities…).

For instance, this year’s programme[2] in the municipality of Aube[3]has involved the participation of different actors like the departmental direction of public security, the Prefecture, the Gendarmerie, the Red Cross, the White Cross and the departmental association of Civil Defence among others to apply prevention to road safety among school children and the senior population, demonstrations of first aid and the presentation of materials and vehicles. Activities have taken place in a range of venues: schools, the public space, lecture rooms, the premises of the gendarmeries or the fire station.

Security workshops have become an interesting practice because they favour the creation of a “security community” where different actors interact and where knowledge and mutual collaboration are enhanced. The benefits of such good practices would appear to be undeniable.

Useful links:

[1] Metropolitan France and overseas territories.

[2] Consultable atécurité%20%202017.pdf

[3] Municipality situated in the north east of France, within the department of La Moselle and in the region of AlsaceChampagne-ArdenneLorraine.


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2017, the year when cybercrime accelerated

From the end of 2016 and much of 2017, a series of worldwide cybernetic crimes took places which were unprecedented because of their impact and extension. They are the cause of much public concern even though they only represent a small sample of the wide range of cybernetic threat which presently exists.

Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) of Europol, identifies the main cybercriminal threats and provides key recommendations to address such challenges.

Assessment of the threat of organised crime via Internet in 2017 presents an in-depth study of key events, changes and emerging threats related to cybercrime last year. It is based on the contributions of member states of the EU, of Europol expert personnel and members from private industry, the financial and academic sectors. The report emphasises the most important events in different areas of cybercrime:

  • Ransomware(malicious software programming)has overshadowed most other cyber-threats with global campaigns which indiscriminately affect victims in multiple industrial and private sectors.
  • The first serious botnet attacks (malicious programmes) took place using internetworking of infected physical devices (IoT).
  • Filtering of data continues to lead to the spreading of large amounts of information, with over 2,000 million recorded relating to citizens of the EU which came to light during the twelve-month period.
  • The dark web continues to be a key transversal facilitator for different fields of crime. It provides access, among other things, to drugs and other psychoactive substances; the provision of firearms which have been used in terrorist attacks; payment details to be able to commit different types of fraud; and fake documents to facilitate fraud, people trafficking and illegal immigration.
  • Criminals continue to use the dark web and other related platforms to share and distribute material involving sexual abuse of children and participate with potential victims, often trying to coerce or sexually extort vulnerable minors.
  • Payment fraud affects almost all industries, which has a major impact on the retail, aeronautic and accommodation sectors.
  • Direct attacks on banking networks to manipulate credit card balances, take control of cash dispensers or directly transfer funds, known as commitments of the payment process, constitute one of the greatest emerging threats in this area.

In spite of the growing threats and challenges, there were some important successful operations last year, like the dismantling of two of the big markets of Darknet, AlphaBay and Hansa, the neutralising of the Avalanche network and Airlineactiondays.

The IOCTA wishes to formulate recommendations for the application of the law and plan in consequence by responding effectively and consensually to cybernetic crime.

  • The application of the law must continue to focus on actors who develop and provide the tools and cybercriminal attack services responsible for ransomware, banking trojans and other malicious programmes and suppliers of DDOS attack tools, antiretroviral services and botnets.
  • The international community must continue to foment trusting relationships with public and private members, CERT communities, etc, so that it is prepared to provide a rapid and coordinated response if there is a global cybernetic attack.
  • The member states of the EU should continue to give support to and deepen its commitment to Europol in the development of pan European campaigns of prevention and awareness-raising.
  • While investigating online child sex abuse, the member states of the EU must guarantee sufficient resources for the fight against crime.
  • The growing threat posed by cybernetic crime requires a legislative commitment which allows for the presence and application of the law to an online environment. The lack of such legislation is leading to a loss of investigative leadership.

All the details are available on 2017 Internet OrganisedCrimeThreatAssessment (IOCTA): IOCTA 2017 website  | IOCTA 2017 PDF version

The IOCTA was presented during the annual session of the CibercrimEuropol-INTERPOL conference, held in The Hague on 27-29 September 2017.

You can consult entries on the previous IOCTA blog at:

IOCTA 2015

IOCTA 2016


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Violent crime rises for the second year running in the USA

The FBI published, at the end of September, the 2016 edition of the report (Crime in the United States – CIUS), with statistics corresponding to crime known to the police in this country, referring to events taking place last year. The largest amount of crime corresponds to crime against property, 7.9 million crimes involving robbery and theft (71.2%), burglaries (19.1%) and vehicle theft (9.7%). These crimes against property in general see a drop for the fourteenth consecutive year, although the three typologies of vehicle theft increased by 7.4%.

The most noteworthy data is the increase, for the second consecutive year, of violent crime. Specifically, by 4.1% amounting to over 1.2 million crimes. The most common are assaults (64.3%), followed by robbery (26.6%), sexual assault (7.7%) and homicides and murder (1.4%). Equally noteworthy is the fact that homicides and murder have increased by 8.6% compared with 2015 (when they had already increased by nearly 11%  compared with 2014).

The data published not only refers to these seven penal crimes, but also offers information about the following:

  • Arson
  • Theft of goods
  • People trafficking
  • Hate crime
  • Arrests
  • Police force numbers
  • Police officers killed or assaulted

The report CIUS has, since June 2017, co-existed with the portal of data exploration of crime (Crime Data Explorer – CDE), which offers this data both to police forces and the general public. As a consequence of this, with the two resources (CIUS and CDE) and the modernisation of tools, those responsible for the CIUS have decided to reduce the number of databases published, maintaining 29 of the previous 81, as this may be due to the fact that they provide different information or because they are more frequently consulted.

It must be remembered that the FBI does not directly gather the data, as different police forces (whether at municipal, county, university, state and federal level) introduce their statistics in a national system. This system is presently in a process of change and, for this reason, details of the data that can be consulted on the CDE is different for each state.


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