This week, the Research Inspector examines the local effect of organised crime and how to find your way to studies that have been conducted or are under way across the UK.
A two-year study by independent think-tank the Police Foundation conducted alongside Perpetuity Research, a research company with expertise in private security and crime reduction sought to develop an empirical evidence base on the scale, nature and impact of organised crime in local communities, as well as the effectiveness of the response from police and partners. The problem has received considerable national coverage, with bold messaging from central government and the National Crime Agency on what it looks like, its prevalence, the harm it causes and what needs to be done to tackle it. However, what has been missing is a road-map for translating these big national themes into evidence-based and targeted activity locally. The need to fill this gap was heightened by the introduction of locally elected police and crime commissioners, accountable to a public which, research showed, did not often perceive organised crime to be a problem in their communities. So what is the local impact of organised crime? The Organised Crime Group Mapping database encapsulates the established knowledge base nationally, but to lift the lid on more hidden and local harms, a wider perspective was needed. The researchers adopted a two-pronged approach: the first was to develop comprehensive profiles for known or suspected organised crime groups and their impact on the surrounding community; the second explored the role and impact of organised crime in the specific contexts of sexual exploitation and fraud. Part of the research identified considerable community impact from local crime groups, but also a local footprint from crimes of national significance, which in some cases were going unnoticed at the local level. The harm that locally entrenched crime groups were causing their surrounding community went well beyond the organised crime categories for which they were mapped (mostly drug supply). The fear and intimidation, anti-social behaviour and exploitation of local residents were a source of considerable local concern. A separate analysis estimated between five and 17 per cent of crime recorded in these neighbourhoods was attributable to organised crime, including one in five burglaries (19 per cent) and more than a quarter (28 per cent) of vehicle crime. So-called new or emerging crimes, on the other hand, were often absent from the local perspective of organised crime. There was a singular focus on drug markets, while the demand profile was changing with a shift towards hidden and complex crimes and cyber-enabled offending. The research found organised crime groups played a considerable role in managing brothels across a city. There were multiple indicators of vulnerability and in nearly a third (29 per cent) there was intelligence to suggest control over the movements and recruitment of sex workers. An analysis of national fraud data estimated between a third (31 per cent) and almost half (45 per cent) of fraud with a local victim had its roots in organised crime. Neither area of crime was prominent in the established local picture. So how do you gauge organised crime and its local impact? A principle aim was to capture the full scale of impact from organised crime, with a particular focus on victimisation and harm regardless of whether offenders were known or where they were located. This meant it was important to look beyond the established profiles of local organised crime groups and apply alternative sources of evidence. First, the researchers built on existing crime and intelligence records on police systems, deconstructing crimes and drawing links between places, events and people to produce estimates for the links to organised crime. This was done by applying the multiple indicators that make up the national definition (eg, multiple perpetrators, serious crime) and using these to test the likelihood of a link to organised crime. Secondly, there was consultation with a range of local practitioners and representatives, revealing the volume of intelligence that was not recorded and wa