Organised crime: Efus’ working group explores innovative local responses

Paris, France, September 2022 – Organised crime presents a growing threat to cities throughout Europe, which requires innovative approaches not only from national authorities but also from local authorities. Indeed, a January 2021 report by Europol warns that “organised crime groups are increasingly employing violence in pursuit of their criminal objectives, and that such violence represents a threat to public security in the EU.” In particular, “large ports in the EU [are] exploited by criminal groups as transit points and the streets of the surrounding cities are particularly vulnerable to violence.

Led by Efus member cities Rotterdam – Europe’s largest seaport – and Amsterdam since December 2019, Efus’ working group on organised crime explores innovative responses at the local level. It works on various aspects of the phenomenon, such as the impact of illicit money flows on local security and public order, the prevention of human trafficking, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on serious and organised crime. It also seeks to facilitate the transfer among cities of promising practices that might be able to prevent, mitigate and tackle the impact of organised crime at the local level. 

A series of web conferences on local responses

The first half of 2022 has been busy for the working group, which launched a series of web conferences starting in February. The first four web conferences of the series focused on:

They provided an important moment of exchange between Efus members and partners, in which participants were able to share their experiences and insights on organised crime at the local level. The discussions highlighted the importance of developing targeted local prevention strategies for a phenomenon that up until recently was mainly considered at the national and international level. 

Recurring points of discussion included the need for information sharing between local authorities and public and private actors, an approach that involves diverse actors (such as social workers, education, etc.), and the development of evaluation mechanisms at the local level. Another highlight of these web conferences was the ‘administrative approach’ to serious and organised crime, which the EU defines as “a complementary way to prevent and tackle the misuse of the legal infrastructure through multi agency cooperation by sharing information and taking actions in order to set up barriers.” For local authorities, this means using administrative and regulatory structures to supplement more traditional criminal law approaches. Examples of the administrative approach at the local level include initiatives to enhance multi-agency cooperation and information sharing which can prevent organised crime groups from using legal means (buying local properties, investing in local businesses…) to launder ill-gained money or infiltrate public organisations. 

Equally innovative, the practice of confiscating assets for social reuse was presented as a local approach to combating organised crime. Through this approach, local authorities can, for example, seize organised crime’s assets and reuse them for the public good and to promote social cohesion. The Italian experience is one of the most successful examples in terms of social reuse of assets confiscated from mafia-type organisations.

> You can find the minutes of the first four web conferences on Efus Network

  • Join us for the next web conference on Organised crime and urban violence: experiences from North and South America which will be held on September 14 at 14:00 CET. Register (free of charge) here.  

Sharing good practices throughout our network

To facilitate the sharing of knowledge among its members, Efus has produced a series of practice sheets on the  local policies discussed during the web conference series. From Italy to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, these practices demonstrate the innovative ways in which local authorities can create policies to combat organised crime whether by confiscating mafia assets to build community spaces or by setting up  a ‘training container’ where port workers can learn how to resist attempts by organised crime to recruit them. 

> The following practice sheets are available on Efus Network:

A European Priority 

The fight against organised crime is a priority in the European Union’s overall Security Union strategy against crime, as reflected by its new Strategy to tackle Organised Organised Crime, and Europol’s 2021 report Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment

Efus is also working on this issue through the European project IcARUS (Innovative AppRoaches to Urban Security), which it leads. IcARUS aims to rethink, redesign, and adapt existing tools and methods to respond to local security challenges, such as organised crime, at the local level. 

Recently, IcARUS partners published a state-of-the-art deliverable entitled The Changing Face of Urban Security Research: A Review of Accumulated Learning, which explores, among other subjects, an overview of local policies to combat and prevent organised crime and areas to explore to further develop local responses. 

What’s next for the working group 

In addition to the  web conference on 14 September, the working group will hold a meeting on the occasion of Efus’ Executive Committee meeting on 29 November in Rotterdam to define priorities for the upcoming year and explore further opportunities for collaboration with European institutions.

  • Please contact our team for more information about this meeting. 

On October 14, Efus will moderate a panel discussion at the 2022 virtual GI-TOC conference.The panel, which will be held at 8:00am CET, will focus on the important role of local authorities in combating organised crime, and will feature a 30-year state of the art of organised crime and policies developed to combat it presented by Adam Crawford of the University of Leeds, followed by presentations from representatives of Amsterdam, Berlin, and Rotterdam. The panel will provide a great opportunity to discuss Efus members’ experiences of organised crime policies at the international level.