UNOC: Understanding the Nexus of Organised Crime: Policing in Marginalised Communities linked with organised Crime: Best Practice Network Development

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Centre for Environmental Strategy


A lattice of social, economic and psychological factors supports recruitment to both criminal and terrorist networks. A combination of broken families, social decay, bad housing, few amenities, poor education and limited job opportunities often function as fertile seedbeds for cultural narratives of violence, religion, power, and identity. Cycles of violence and retaliation can expand into feuds to control areas and revenues which develop their own self-justifying logic and sometimes grow into transnational organized crime (TOC) networks: some Jamaican communities are linked to trafficking and homicides in the UK, USA and Canada, some of the criminal networks in Northern Ireland import weapons from Eastern Europe, drugs from Venezuela and run their businesses from Spain, so international and cross-disciplinary research is vital to understand TOC genesis and dynamics.

There are also increasing overlaps between criminal and terrorist networks; gangs serve as a 'force multiplier' for extremists, providing recruits, weapons, local knowledge and the ability to deliver violence and create chaos, while many gang members are disaffected youth with the potential to be radicalised (for example, many Daesh recruits are alienated young men from dysfunctional families already involved in gangs and attracted by a violent ideology that appears to give their life purpose and meaning). In addition, cyber-criminals now routinely trade over the dark net, so criminals and terrorists operate in the same market place. As the US National Security Council 'Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime' notes: "Today's criminal networks are fluid, striking new alliances with other networks around the world and engaging in a wide range of illicit activities, including cybercrime and providing support for terrorism."

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) was originally modelled on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC); both prioritized the suppression of insurgency. The RUC was reformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) which emphasises policing with the community, with over 80 neighbourhood policing teams that have done much to win the trust of all sections of the community. Both forces know the roots of TOC and have significant experience with Policing with the Community, which is why their contribution to this project is vital.

This innovative, cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural comparative project with strong user collaboration and engagement will examine the nexus of interacting problems in marginalised communities linked with TOC. It will significantly deepen understanding of how TOC has evolved from simple beginnings into far more complex criminal structures over time and in different cultural contexts, what impact it has both locally and in the other countries involved, and how it can be most effectively fought in its community strongholds. It will create a network that will identify and disseminate best practice in the use of 'policing with the community' to undermine TOC networks.

The overall aim of the project is to extend our understanding about the dynamics between marginalised communities and organised crime, and how specifically policing in the community can help reducing the impact of transnational, organised crime. Objectives each have their WP:
1. Better understand how transnational crime has evolved across different cultural contexts
2. Better understanding of the links between marginalised communities, organised crime and terrorism, nationally and internationally.
3. Identify Best Practice in policing with the community (PIC) in preventing & mitigating the effect of organised crime
4. Develop a network of experts and expertise to promote innovation and best practice in the understanding of transnational organised crime.

UNOC will benefit PIC strategies internationally as it will help improve local interventions and convey and contextual Best practices internationally.

Planned Impact

This proposal was co-authored by academics and serving police officers. It has been designed to generate real, practical and substantial benefits for research users, practitioners, for policy, for national development and for the communities that have suffered most from crime and violence. The impact will be significant; Jamaicans, for example, have been for some years the largest single foreign national contingent in UK jails, so programs to address the root causes of crime in Jamaica will result in substantial reductions in harm (and cost) in both Jamaica and the UK. Northern Ireland communities continue to experience terrorist attacks and this ongoing activity has the potential to negatively impact on the progress made in the peace process. Work in understanding the factors that sustain patterns of crime and violence in the marginalised communities would assist police and stakeholders in developing behaviours and actions that can positively assist in keeping communities safe.
The UNOC team consists of experienced experts each bringing specific skills to the project that should provide a sound basis to make a substantial and sustainable impact. Specific and targeted impacts include:

- Knowledge: Improving the understanding of the nexus between social variables and transnational organized crime in the academic and practitioner communities. This international problem requires international research partners.
- Innovative research methods: Using a combination of interviews, practitioners participant observation and reflective workshops as well as a Delphi process to identify and validate a consensus about the critical social variables involved in generating and sustaining high rates of crime and violence. This research deliberately spans across social sciences and humanities research methodologies and paradigms.
- Applicability. The project will improve the skills base and socio-cultural understanding of practitioners who will be able to utilize the findings of WP1 and WP2 and integrate them into policies and operations, and then evaluate their policing with the community programs against the benchmarks determined in WP3.
- People: UNOC will improve the skills base of practitioners by relating the findings from WP1 and WP2 to their practical work. Different Police Forces beyond UNOC will be able to evaluate their PIC programmes against the benchmarks distributed from the output of WP3.
- Transferability. The project will allow an assessment of good practice, and of the extent to which models can be transferred between different countries and cultures.
- Economy: A better understanding of the socio-cultural context and practical steps of PIC will lead to greater operational effectiveness. It will also allow an assessment of how easily ideas can be transferred from one cultural context to another. This will be one of the central benefits from the reciprocal visits and the agreed conclusion after the workshop. A safer community and a more successful fight against TOC lie at the heart of economic development, investment, and human capital retention, nationally and beyond. Crime is the single most effective barrier to the social and economic development of countries like Jamaica.
- Society: More effective policing and better fights against TOC are inherently beneficial to affected communities. Given the typically marginalised state of such communities, improvements to their quality of life are likely to be more pronounced and faster than in other communities, and will have further spin-off effects for the generation of economic activity and beyond. High rates of crime and violence effectively deter investment in the troubled areas and encourage migration of the most educated and skilled, thereby perpetuating the social and economic problems.


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