Response to growing threat from organised crime strengthened

A strategy to combat serious organised crime in Scotland has been updated to put the emphasis “firmly on identifying and responding to the key threats”.

Feb 23, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Justice Secretary Keith Brown

Latest assessments suggest that while the geographical spread of serious organised crime groups (SOCGs) operating in Scotland remains much as before, the threat from these groups is growing in scale and complexity.

The Scottish government said the updated Serious Organised Crime Taskforce Strategy will see better collaboration across all sectors with an emphasis on identifying the key threats and ensuring Scotland’s response to those threats “remains effective and continues to reduce the harm that organised crime causes communities”.

The refreshed strategy aims to deliver its objectives by focusing on the four ‘Ds’:

Divert – to divert people from becoming involved in serious organised crime and using its products;

Deter – to deter serious organised crime groups by supporting private, public and third sector organisations to protect themselves and each other;

Detect – to identify, detect and prosecute those involved in serious organised crime; and

Disrupt – to disrupt serious organised crime groups.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Keith Brown said: “I want to see a Scotland where we all work together to reduce the harm caused by organised crime. Harm reduction will benefit our communities, businesses and every one of us.

“Serious Organised Crime Taskforce members continue to work with other organisations at home and abroad to tackle these threats. Our multi-partnership approach has delivered notable successes, but there is more to be done.

“This updated strategy puts the emphasis firmly on identifying the key threats and putting our response to those threats at the heart of our efforts. We will have the greatest chance of success if everyone in Scotland plays their part in continuing to disrupt serious organised crime groups to reduce the harm they cause to our communities.”

Evidence suggests many Scottish SOCGs are not only operating across country boundaries, but in some cases globally, with a number of criminal gangs based elsewhere also operating in Scotland.

Drug trafficking remains the largest criminal market in Scotland, but latest assessments show “more and more SOCGs are diversifying”, with two-thirds involved in multiple crime types including drugs, violence, money laundering, fraud, human trafficking, counterfeiting, illicit puppy trade, rogue trading and environmental crime.

There has also been an increase in child criminal exploitation, including County Lines models, and online child sexual exploitation.

High-priority areas of threat identified by the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce include SOCG violence, drugs, cybercrime, criminal use of firearms, human trafficking, child criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and the potential for SOCG infiltration of legitimate businesses.

The Justice Secretary said the refreshed strategy reflects those changing landscapes and operational results.

“In particular, the use of the Scottish Multi-Agency Strategic Threat Assessment (SMASTA) will allow us to focus on serious organised crime prevention in a way that is informed by analysis of the threat and should allow us all to respond more quickly and flexibly to assessments of changing threats,” he added. “This is the first stage in a longer programme of work to ensure that our collective response to organised crime remains current.”

Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency actively work with agencies in Scotland, the UK and internationally to tackle organised crime and to dismantle the groups responsible.

This activity has delivered significant successes in recent times, particularly through the UK-wide Operation Venetic, and Scottish Operation Barricade, which has seen the removal of firearms and significant quantities of illegal drugs from our streets alongside a number of arrests.

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