The present and future of organised crime in the European Union

Organised crime has evolved significantly over the last twenty years, especially in terms of the number of criminal organisations, their modus operandi, the use of technology and organised crime’s ability to infiltrate infrastructures and the public sector and to make the most of legal loopholes.

This was just one of the conclusions reached at the European Police Chiefs Convention 2019 (EPCC), during which some 600 police officials and representatives from 50 countries gathered at Europol headquarters in The Hague.

This annual event brings together police chiefs and officials from the EU and from all over the world to exchange assessments of the threats, challenges and opportunities posed by current and emerging criminal groups. Through hundreds of bilateral and multilateral meetings, the delegates discussed the continuing evolution of organised crime and how it has become a significant challenge for EU security. The police authorities of the EU member states and Europol all agreed that the increasingly cross-border nature of organised crime, often tied to violence between gangs, the expansion of the drug traffic markets and related crimes like money laundering and corruption, constitutes a significant challenge for our society.

In some regions of several EU member states a vicious circle that involves social exclusion, criminality, mistrust of the police and, in some cases, radicalisation has been observed.

Meanwhile, new psychoactive substances, record levels of drug production worldwide, organised trafficking of migrants and the development of online crime have had a profound effect on the criminal panorama.

Europol and the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union concluded that various areas require special attention. These include:

  • a focus on organised crime, considering it as a serious threat to the EU’s internal security.
    • a need to tackle high-level organised criminal groups by developing more effective initiatives, such as the ‘high-value target’ concept at Europol.
    • greater attention being paid to economic and financial crime and the confiscation of criminal assets, which will ensure that the costs of crime are paid by criminals. And the use of new tools like the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) at Europol and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
    • greater flow of information between the police and the private sector, at national and European levels (Europol).
    more investment in crime prevention, which requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves government bodies, NGOs and the private sector.
    a need for an overall EU strategy to tackle organised crime, which may be expanded during the EU policy cycle on serious international crime.

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The Automatic Facial Recognition System of London’s Metropolitan Police force is questioned by independent research

The results of a study carried out by two teachers of the University Of Essex in collaboration with London’s Metropolitan Police have just been published[1], highlighting the fact that only a third of the identifications carried out using the automatic facial recognition system are correct. In the remaining cases the persons identified do not correspond to those being sought after.

The study, which has also been echoed internationally[2], also points to doubts about the appropriateness of the right to use this system of artificial intelligence on the part of the Metropolitan Police. First of all, there is no legal base for using this system generically, meaning that if we bear in mind that it involves limiting rights, it does not abide by  the obligation to be applied in accordance with the law. Secondly, there is no justification for the need to use this technology, meaning that if the problem cannot be resolved with another less intrusive method, the impact that this may have on the rights of those affected cannot be assessed (which has also been established more recently by a report from the Video Surveillance Commission[3]).

The very construction of the list of people sought after with which the faces viewed are contrasted with the cameras does not seem to follow a criteria that is clear and uniform when choosing the people who are part of it. These include people sought after by both the judiciary and the police force and they have not committed an offence in all cases.

At an operative level, the results have been very poor, of the 46 identifications carried out by the system only 26 were considered to be credible by the officers involved, but in four of the cases the people identified as wanted were not stopped, as they blended into the crowd. Of the remaining 22, only eight led to the arrest of the sought-after person, while the other 14 showed that that the person who had effectively been stopped did not correspond to the one being sought after. The decision-making process once the camera image is received does not seem to have been the correct one in several cases, detecting, among other deficiencies, precipitation when intervening.

It is important, however, to recognise the collaboration with the Metropolitan Police itself in the research work. Indeed, the use of this instrument was taken into consideration over a three-year test period, during which tests have been carried out related to its functioning (too centred on purely technical questions according to the study by the University of Essex) promoted by the police force itself. The test period ended in July 2019. The results of this observation as a whole must serve to modify its use in the future[4].

[1] Vid. https://48ba3m4eh2bf2sksp43rq8kk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/London-Met-Police-Trial-of-Facial-Recognition-Tech-Report.pdf

[2] Vid. http://www.polizei-newsletter.de/links.php?L_ID=638

[3] Vid. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786392/AFR_police_guidance_of_PoFA_V1_March_2019.pdf

[4] Vid. https://www.met.police.uk/live-facial-recognition-trial/

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The non-violent crime rate continues to fall in Switzerland

The data published by Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Statistics[1] confirm the trend over recent years. First, both strictly criminal offences and those that are against drug-trafficking–related legislation and those against immigration law continue to fall. Criminal offences have gone down more than the previous year (61% and in 2016 they had fallen by 4%), whereas violations of immigration law have decreased even more (9.1%, as opposed to drop of 1% in 2016). Crimes related to drug trafficking have fallen slightly more than last year (3.8% in 2017 as opposed to 3% last year).     In this context, it is important to stress that offences against personal integrity have not gone down in the same way, and have remained stable (there are 90 fewer cases, indiscernible in percentage terms[2]).  Significant decreases are seen with regard to crime against property, which amount to 67.5% of offences against the criminal code and fall by 6%. The decrease in burglaries is noteworthy and goes down by 12%. Crimes against human liberty see a fall of 9.1%, but are not so relevant in global terms.

Regarding detentions (“accused”, as they say), the overall number remains stable (0.1% less than the previous year) but an increase of 8.3% is detected in the detention of minors, although these refer to minor offences like theft, damage, brawls and insults. Those Swiss nationals detained for offences against the criminal code still do not account for half (47.85%). Most foreigners detained (59.31%) are habitual residents in the country, 8.6 asylum seekers and 32% are non-residents. The relatively high numbers of permanent foreign residents are manifest when the predominant nationalities involved are seen. The first four places are taken by Italians, Portuguese, Germans and French, which are nationalities that have a large number of habitual residents in the country. On the other hand, regarding offences against drug legislation, the Swiss are indeed the majority (55.75%) and concerning offences related to immigration laws, non-resident foreigners naturally account for the immense majority (80%).

The crime rate (criminal law) per thousand inhabitants is 52.1 (a drop of 6%) and the cantons with the highest rates are the more urban and populated areas: Basel city (113.5), Geneva (102.8) and Neuchatel (65.8). The ones with the lowest rates are very rural and less populated areas: Uri (22.7), Appenzell Innerrhoden (23) and Schwyz (26%).

[1] Vid. https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home/statistiken/kataloge-datenbanken/publikationen.assetdetail.4822913.html

[2] 24.632 this year per 24,722 last year.

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Notable drop in crime in Germany

Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik 2017The German Bundeskriminalamt has just published the crime data corresponding to 2017. Despite all the forecasts predicting that the waves of refugees over recent years would cause a dangerous increase in crime, figures show a drop of 9.6% with reference to the previous year (5,761,984 incidents compared with 6,372,526 the previous year).

Important drops can be seen in practically all criminal categories, with the exception of economic crime (28%, but in overall figures, 74,070), firearm-related crime (trafficking) and against public health (drugs), pornography and very slightly in crimes involving fraud (20.6% of which are committed via Internet), computer crime (especially among nationals) or against the authority of the State (especially among foreigners).

Crimes against property (theft, robbery without violence, burglaries of homes and businesses) continue to constitute an important fraction of the crime committed (36.3%) and just over two million offences were recorded (2,092,994), a figure that suggests a reduction of 11.8% in reference to the previous year. Decreases are manifested in all criminal categories (the23% drop in burglaries is noteworthy), both when the authors of such crimes are nationals or foreigners.

An important number of crimes continue to take place in the street, 20.9% of the total.

Crimes against immigration law saw a drop of 63.1% (going down from 487,711 to 179,848), which shows that the rhetoric announcing an overwhelming effect due to the arrival of refugees was a mistaken forecast.

Violent crime saw a more moderate decrease, 2.4% in total, especially due to the fall in theft with violence (9.7%). Homicide, on the other hand, only fell by 1.6%.

Crimes against public health (drugs) saw an increase of 9.2%, amounting to 330,580 cases. Most are related to the trafficking of cannabis and marihuana (204,904), amphetamines and by-products (47,662) and, in third place, of cocaine and crack (19,644). The following factors are stressed as being among the causes for such an increase:

  • The increase in police pressure
  • The increase in the availability of such drugs
  • Sales via Internet
  • The recent incorporation of customs officers in the fight against drug trafficking

Finally, it must be stressed that the crime rate per thousand inhabitants is 68.82(the previous year, 77.54) and that the percentage of foreigners arrested is down from 40.4% the previous year to 34.8%.

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How does police presence and action affect the French public’s perception of security?

A study carried out based on crime interviews Cadre de vie et sécurité, 2008-2017[1] has allowed for the assessment of police presence and action by over 160,000 interviewees over the age of 14, resident in France.

In general terms, the French population views police presence and action positively: 47% of those interviewed think that the police presence in their neighbourhood or municipality is sufficient and 48%, that police action against crime is effective enough. These perceptions continue to be very stable with the passing of time and improve as of 2015, possibly due to a better and more visible police presence, reinforced after the terrorist attacks. Despite this, 19% of these individuals considered the police presence to be insufficient and 27%, inexistent. With regard to socially disadvantaged areas, the percentage of those who consider police action not to be effective enough rises to 44%.

Apart from global percentages, aspects like the individual characteristics of the person interviewed and the place of residence have an impact on the assessment of the presence and effectiveness of police action.

Individual characteristics

In general, men and more elderly people view police presence and effectiveness positively.

  • 49% of the men interviewed think that police presence in the local environment is sufficient compared to 45% of women. 49% of men also consider police action effective, compared to 46% of women.
  • 52% of people over 66 believe that the police presence in their neighbourhood is sufficient and 50% believe that police action is effective enough.

Features of the place of residence

In general, the perception of the effectiveness of police action in the fight against crime is very positive in rural areas, but it gets worse in urban conurbations with over 100,000 inhabitants and in the metropolitan area of Paris. As shown in the graphic below.

Assessment of police action in the fight against crime in accordance with the territory

accio_policial_en

Source: Interviews CVS (2008-2017): INSEE-ONDRP-SSMSI; data treatment: ONDRP. The people interviewed are over 14 and live in France.

Although a casual connection has not been successfully established, there seems to be a link between the presence and effectiveness of police action in the municipality and the population. Inversely, the individuals who feel most insecure also tend to be more critical when assessing police practices.

Further information:

[1] The Cadre de vie et sécurité survey was conducted by Ministerial Statistics Service and Internal Security (SSMSI) from 2015, and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) and the National Crime and Penal Response Observatory (ONDRP) from 2007.

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United Kingdom will give the police force more powers to address terrorism

In 2017, Great Britain suffered three terrorist attacks. In March, in London, there was the incident at Westminster Bridge and the Parliament; in June, the incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market, and in May, in Manchester, and the attack at the end of the concert given by the American singer Ariana Grande. These terrorist attacks caused the deaths of 35 people.

Obviously, these continued incidents have led to a debate in British society about the radicalisation process and measures to detect it. In this debate, the British government wants to change legislative framework in order to give greater powers to the intelligence services (MI5) and to the police in order to prevent further acts of terrorism.

MI5 informs that there are over 23,000 cases to monitor, but that only 3,000 are investigated. Furthermore, according to British government data, the terrorist threat has increased since 2011, when the anti-terrorism strategy was published.

The new government proposal, according to most of the British press, gives power to MI5 to be able to work and coordinate police work and the rest of the services involved, both locally and nationally. The objective is to be able to place those suspected of being radicalised under surveillance.

There is a wish to extend prison terms, as the British government had already announced, and intense monitoring is proposed even when the person has completed his/her sentence. There is also a call for teachers, doctors and other community leaders to inform of anyone they suspect of being radicalised.

The objective, according to the Home Secretary, is to leave no space for terrorism, impeding recruitment to keep families and the community safe.

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Firearms and traffic accidents, the main causes of police deaths in the USA

Between 2010 and 2016, over 1,000 police officers died in the USA on duty or because of being police officers. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Found has carried out, with financial support from the Department of Justice, the study Making It Safer: A Study of Law Enforcement Fatalities Between 2010-2016, of 1,016 police deaths in these circumstances, with the aim of offering security advice in order to prevent and avoid such fatal outcomes.

The study analyses these cases and offers advice to act safely or take protective measures from different perspectives:

  • The main noteworthy causes of the death of an agent involve firearms and traffic accidents.
  • The type of service that led to the death (responding to a request, ex-officio action, patrolling tasks), in a training context or even in off duty contexts.
  • If the officers affected were taking some nature of security measure, especially if they were wearing a bullet-proof vest in the case of firearm deaths or a knife attack, or if they were wearing a seat belt in the case of a traffic accident.

Deaths due to firearms during this period amounted to 376. The last year, 2016, was the second worst, with 66 officers killed, just under the 73 killed in 2011; moreover, it means an increase of 53% compared with the previous year, 2015, when there were 43. Investigators associate part of this increase with the higher number of ambushes of police officers, in some cases they were even off duty.

A good proportion of officer deaths are related to vehicles and traffic: 247 deaths because of car accidents and 45 because of motorcycle accidents. Investigators propose that all officers wear a seat belt, because in 2016 52% of the officers who died in traffic accidents were not wearing a seat belt.

Finally, the report analyses 550 cases of officers who died because of a firearm fired by a police officer, in this case over a much greater period (cases date back to 1856). The following are particularly noteworthy:

  • 139 are accidents involving officers shooting themselves (without any intention of committing suicide);
  • 105 were officers mistakenly identified as criminals by other police officers;
  • 46 officers died during training exercises.
  • 14 were cases of cross fire.

The same organisation drew up the previous report Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters. Analysis of U.S. law enforcement line of duty deaths when officers responded to dispatched calls for service and conducted enforcment (2010-2014)

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France tries to improve public safety with a new model: “la Police de sécurité du quotidien (PSQ)”

la Police de sécurité du quotidien (PSQ)The sense of insecurity is increasing among the French population: 66% of French citizens say that they feel insecure and 62% that the level of security is a key criterion when choosing a place to live.[1] To address this situation, the French Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, presented a new model of public security police force on 8 February 2018, in this case primarily focusing on about sixty sensitive neighbourhoods. The launching of this new model is part of a framework involving reforms, which will also affect the judiciary, with a legal project that will review the penal procedure in the spring of 2018.

The new police model is underpinned by five pillars and involves the implementation of 55 interventions. We are going to stress some:

  • Pillar 1: A police force and a gendarmerie with new ambitions
  • 10,000 new police units between 2018 and 2022.
  • The suspension of some police tasks like static surveillance, the externalisation of tasks to the private sector and the substitution of police officers with administrative staff for certain support functions.
  • Pillar 2: A respected police force and a gendarmerie
  • Improving protection for police officers with more effective sanctions in the case of crimes against authority.
  • The coming into force of new measures of anonymization.
  • Introduction of measures to prevent police suicides: reinforcement of psychological support and more training to administer crisis and stressful situations more effectively.
  • A budget improvement with a triennial 2018-2020 plan of 900 million euros.
  • Reforming the police-training model, which reinforces the initial training models and harmonises training at different hierarchical levels in reference to both the national police force and the gendarmerie.
  • Police 3: A custom-made police force and gendarmerie
  • Reinforcement of policing in 60 sensitive neighbourhoods in several phases until 2020, which will involve an increase of 1,300 officers.
  • Introduction of strategies to combat local crime.
  • Making closer contact with the population with the development of 250 proximity units by 2019.
  • Improving attention to victims (adapting opening hours to the needs of the population, better training and adapting the premises used for this purpose).
  • Pillar 4: A connected police force and gendarmerie
  • Provision of 110,000 touch panels by 2020 and 800 new officers to fight against cyber threats.
  • Increase of 10,000 body-worn cameras for police uniforms by 2019.

The launching of a digital police group: a citizens’ information centre

  • In four languages and available 24 hours a day seven days a week.
  • The opening of a new platform to focus on sexual and sexist crime.
  • Pillar 5: A police force and a gendarmerie that cooperate with each other
  • Professional improvement of municipal policing and private security officers.
  • Better cooperation with mayors, especially those that administer neighbourhoods where the new public security model is being implemented.
  • Assessment of the new model of public security paying attention to the range of actors: prefects, universities and researchers, councillors, unions, police forces, entrepreneurs and the public in general.

For further information, the following links can be consulted:

[1] Data provided by the Institute of Independent Studies Odoxa.

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Who has to pay for police services at football matches?

Mossos d'Esquadra - FutbolThe cost of police services involving major sports events ¾especially football matches¾ has been a source of controversy for some time. Police services have to provide a large number of officers, which may condition their staffing resources, and consequently the service they offer. In 1989, after the Hillsborough disaster, in the United Kingdom, where over 90 people died due to, along with other factors, a lack of police resources, the country’s police organisation demanded resources to address the security needs of professional football matches. The 1996 police law established English clubs’ obligation to pay a rate for police services.

The amount of the rate has been a permanent source of controversy. Last November, London’s Metropolitan Police published the annual cost of Police expenses related to security at football matches, over 12 million pounds, denouncing the fact that the city’s clubs only contributed a small amount.

In Catalonia, four years ago, a rate was approved for the Generalitat Police force− Mossos d’Esquadra, although this exclusively applied to high-risk matches.

These amounts tend to lead to a response involving legal challenges in courtrooms.[1] In Germany, in the middle of February 2018, the higher court of the City State of de Bremen maintained the rate established by the government for high-risk matches. Specifically, the rate for the match between Werder Bremen and HSV Hamburg in August 2015 was discussed. The land’s Police force used 969 officers in order to guarantee the security of both clubs’ supporters. The upper court argued that the police forces of the länder are obliged to maintain the security of their respective territories, also at football matches and other types of events involving large concentrations of people. In order to be able to address this obligation, the corresponding rates to finance such services must be established so that the necessary resources are provided. Authorities can decide whether there are people who are particularly responsible for risks generated by their activities when, furthermore, these generate significant economic revenue, as in the case of football clubs, and consider that the rate is proportional as it is calculated in accordance with the number of police officers on duty.

[1] In Catalonia, FC Barcelona has legally challenged the application procedure applied for such a rate.

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England and Wales lose over 22,000 police officers in only eight years

Police in Glasgow
According to several items of news published in the English media,[1] the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 1,213 in the last six months and in September 2017 the figure was 16% below the maximum in 2009, according to official data. The reason for this situation is believed to be the police wage freeze, apart from the growing participation of the private sector in the field of security.

The latest statistical data of the Home Office of September 2017 place the number of officers of the 43 police forces in England and Wales at 121,929, from 123,142 on 31st March of the same year and from 144,353 in 2009, meaning, 22,424 fewer officers in eight years.

Of the 43 police forces, the Metropolitan Police of London, the most important in England and Wales, represented over half of the drop in the number of officers, with 646 fewer in only six months.

Although crime figures from the Home Office itself stress a significant increase in recorded crime –the highest increase in the last ten years–, police numbers continue to fall partly because the police pay freeze continues. At present, according to the Home Office, there are additional funds to improve pay conditions for police forces.

In percentage terms, the biggest reduction in staff was experienced in North Yorkshire, at 4.2%, a loss of 58 officers until September 2017. In second place, there is West Midlands, which lost 221 police officers, 3.3% of all its officers.

To address this scenario, senior police officers have warned that the lack of financial investment in security is causing difficulties for the police force, and more so given the rise in crime being reported and the continual terrorist threat.

This situation has now moved onto the political stage and police chiefs have also intervened. While the labour party feels that the security budget during the 2018-2019 period means a reduction of 119 million pounds compared with the previous year, the Home Office believes that the sector’s budget will increase by about 450 million pounds and stress that, since 2010, the reduction in “traditional” crimes has been 40%.

The National Police Chiefs Council recognises certain progress in the will to increase security resources, although there are important differences in the composition of the finance, a fact that reverses the situation as the increase in the budgets may range from 1.6% to 3.6%.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, has announced the desire to reduce the impact of police cutbacks, investing 60 million pounds annually to pay for 1,000 additional police officers. However, he recognises that this investment will not reverse recent crime-related figures. He has also stressed a wish to address the increase in youth crime in London, with an injection of 15 million pounds annually.

[1] The news appeared in several publications and related news items have been published. We highlight one in newspaper TheGuardian on 13 February 2018.

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