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 Environment & Sustainability


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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Description The UNOC project has generated a number of significant insights with regard to policing with the community. These include:
1.1. In the past, a 'community' would usually be characterized by multiple overlapping characteristics. People with a common faith, background, class and set of occupations would live in the same area, and could be easily defined as a distinct community.
1.2. Today, 'community' is an increasingly elastic concept. It can be defined historically, socially, economically, culturally, ethnically and/or politically, and can be physical or virtual. Communities are therefore self-defined in ways that no longer coincide with local (policing or authority) districts, national borders or geographical localities. Some locations may contain different communities, overlapping the several districts and areas. For example, there may be an international online community built around a faith or shared interests, or separate rich and poor communities as immediate neighbours in an urban district. The traditional 'community defined above is increasingly rare.
1.3. So the modern 'community' may be beyond the reach, definition, scale and scope of traditional policing methods.
2. Organised crime (OC) is a serious problem in the UK, costing the UK about £35bn p.a.
2.1. OC formerly tended to have deep roots of identity and support in particular local communities. This is still true in some instances, but the relationship between local communities and OC is now significantly less uniform. It can partially overlap, or be largely independent.
2.2. Serious OC is typically not confined to 'their' local communities. Youth gangs may start with local extortion, but the impact of serious OC is more often outside the community. In some cases, such as the Tivoli community in Kingston, Jamaica, which was the base of Jamaica's most feared and international OC 'Presidential clique' gang, the gang leaders imposed very strict law and order in the home community, with punishment beatings and the death penalty used as sanctions. In such cases, OC leaders may also be community leaders, controlling the flows of government contracts, aid and welfare support, which corrupts the relationship between the community and the government.
2.3. Such communities may give strong support to their OC leader, but are typically reluctant to see the OC gang reassert its power once dislodged by the police.
2.4. Relationships between OC and communities may therefore be shaped by cultural factors, but also by fear, economic dependency, social relations and political history.
2.5. In troubled 'garrison' communities in countries like Jamaica, politicians have played a role in encouraging the formation of the community (usually on 'captured' public land), and in political patronage, giving access to state resources in exchange for votes. However, this relationship has weakened, partly because the gangs which previously served as political enforcers have become increasingly independent of the politicians as they have diversified into other forms of crime.
2.6. OC in such communities grew stronger as they were able to expand into the vacuum left by the state's inability to deliver local government services.
3. OC and the state may therefore be in direct competition with regard to the provision of economic, social, and governance services. Until governments can outperform OC in the provision of order, 'justice', civil and economic support, it has a crisis of legitimacy that OC has exploited to strengthen their position.
3.1. In such cases, the fight against OC has to be located in the communities affected, and must include local stakeholders.
3.2. The fight against OC cannot be confined to traditional policing work, but must take place in the same 'areas' that OC is operating in, including the contested physical, virtual, cultural, social, and economic spaces.
3.3. The availability of data available to police forces is far larger than the capacity of forces to access, manage, scrutinise and provide in-time intelligence results. This can allow OCs to hide in plain sight. It may not be until an OC structure comes to light that the police start to trace the relevant data.
4. There are a number of different policing styles, ranging from arresting gang members to preventative policing through improvements of security, proximity policing in hot spots, recruiting the local community into citizen watch programs, developing sources of intelligence in the community, and working with the community to develop policing priorities and targets. A single police force may use all of these tactics, but there are important differences of emphasis across time, jurisdiction, in local priorities and levels of crime.
4.1. Removing gang members and/or leadership can result in adverse effects, such as criminals learning, changing their tactics, arming themselves, geographical displacement and social dysfunction (taking the only reliable source of revenue from a community may have serious negative economic consequences for other local residents). Removing gang leadership may also result in a surge in violence as junior members fight to take over the leadership.
4.2. A mixture of tactics can also result in policy conflicts. For example, arresting gang members and removing the flow of income may reduce trust, attempts to drive a wedge between the community and the gang may result in communities feeling exposed and obliged to demonstrate 'loyalty' to the gang.
4.3. The Peelian Principles (notably 5, 7 and 9) are relevant and topical as they were 189 years ago.
4.4. A critically important indicator for the integration of policing with the community and the fight against OC is an increase in trust (on both sides) and a reduction in the levels of criminality, rather than an increase in detection and conviction rates.
4.5. This means that performance evaluations based on detection and conviction rates can be dysfunctional, and undermine preventative efforts to improve the provision of safety and security in the communities.
5. A particular target group for criminalisation and radicalisation are young people
5.1. Given the social, cultural and identity narratives that are particularly likely to influence young people, and given the very different communication forms of young people (who typically rely much more on social media), efforts to prevent radicalisation that relies on traditional policing strategies are unlikely to work as well, as young people are not readily reachable by these means. This means that efforts become less effective.
5.2. Central to efforts to prevent radicalisation is a reasonable prospect of an economically viable and culturally acceptable life outside crime. The provision of employment is outside the realm of policing, but it is a core component in the competition with OC.
6. All 4 components of the UK's CONTEST program are active in the efforts to improve the fight against OC and terrorism by integrating these with Policing with the Community.
6.1. However, an over-emphasis on the Prevent component has not enhanced the efficacy of CONTEST or improved relationships with many local communities.
6.2. The starting point of the integration matters materially, operationally and strategically. For example, whether the fight against OC is introduced into an existing and active Policing with the Community strategy, or whether the fight against OC is simply broadened to include a nod to community policing in a generic sense.
7. UNOC has developed a model of how best to introduce a functioning integration of Policing with the community and the fight against OC.
8. UNOC has noted the increasing overlap between terrorist and criminal networks and activities, and identified three most-likely cross-over points between the two pathways.
9. UNOC has also developed a model of how the radicalisation of young people can be mitigated and/or disrupted using the 'pathways' model of radicalisation and criminalisation.
Exploitation Route The findings are being communicated to many police forces and the UK College for Policing, as well as to a large diversity of relevant UK stakeholders. They are being included in the development / re-write of several of the strategic policing frameworks of Police Forces, including Thames Valley, Hampshire, Kent and Avon and Somerset. The guidance on the integration of the fight against OC and Policing with the Community is soon to be consulted with by the network of all Chief Superintendents in the UK. The need for improved "big data" analytics is also being considered in improvements in Police use of "big data" by several police forces. As a result of UNOC, different police forces are now exchange practices and improve their own data analytics, with the support of the Surrey University Mathematics department as well.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description I refer to the submission made 2 years ago - the project ended 31 March 2018.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description The findings from UNOC are included in the re-write and re-focus of policing strategies in several UK police forces, including Thames Valley, Avon and Somerset, Hampshire, and Northern Ireland (in addition to Jamaica)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description Widening the network
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
Impact The project collaborators from the participating police forces have forged a collaborative link on police officers exchange and collaboration on areas of mutual interest, especially crime prevention, community engagement and the fight against organised crime. To that effect, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Avon and Somerset Police (who are also the national lead on international collaboration) and the Jamaican Constabulary Force, Kingston Jamaica. Without UNOC, this would never have come about. We are also attempting to fund a second round of reciprocal visits to Jamaica by Avon & Somerset and PSNI.
Description Keynote address at conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Thames Valley Police organised a national conference on Stronghold, which brought together officers and stakeholders supporting the national strategies towards safer communities and the fight against organised crime. 13 March 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018