Review of The Oxford Handbook of Organised Crime (ed Paoli)

The Oxford Handbook of Organised Crime

Edited by Letizia Paoli


ISBN: 978 0199730445

PRICE: £97

This is a large book which sets itself a high objective which it admirably achieves.

The National Crime Agency Annual Plan 2015-16 states the organisation's aim is "crime reduction”: securing that efficient and effective activities to combat organised crime and serious crime are carried out [through] 'Criminal intelligence': gathering, storing, processing, analysing, and disseminating information that is relevant to any of the following – (a) activities to combat organised crime or serious crime". It is said organised crime costs the UK £24 billion per annum. As the authors of the book indicate, “It is not clear it is either useful or feasible to estimate the figure." They quote global figures of $500 million to $1 trillion by the United Nations in 2005.

In Scotland, Holyrood magazine reported in June 2015 that "more than 230 serious organised crime groups (SOCGs) are recorded as operating in Scotland, comprising around 3,700 individuals. Around 44% of groups are involved in multiple types of crime and criminals are also now moving into areas such as the renewable energy sector, high value vehicle theft, reactivation of firearms, pension fund fraud and mortgage fraud".

This book considers those engaged in organised crime across the globe from Italy, Russia and the Far East to South America. The authors note: "organised crime has a habit of interacting with its social environment". There is an analysis of how lawful and illegal connections and relationships develop and become a bedrock on which organised crime feeds, develops and operates. Trust within the group is essential.

The book then considers the markets and activities of organised crime from traditional drug smuggling, extortion and money laundering to the more recent exploitation of people through human trafficking and the sex industry to cybercrime and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The issue of modern slavery is well described, highlighting the differences yet commonality between human smuggling and trafficking, and that exploitation is as much within the domestic labour area as within the rather better known area of sexual exploitation. The recruitment process through to preventative measures such as border control are also considered. The chapter on the exploitation of natural resources demonstrates the acute impact such activity has, more on the populations in the Southern Hemisphere where corruption and the relative absence of rule of law allow such activity to go undiminished.

The study ends with a wide ranging survey of the political and law enforcement mechanisms that seek to combat organised crime. Within the context of EU policy, the authors note, it was only with the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 that policy development within the EU became a "shared responsibility" of member states: previous policy development had been "cumulative in nature... but so all-encompassing it has become almost impossible to chart".

This brief review seeks to place the value of this academically driven text in context. That context is a simple one. The authors demonstrate on research and empirical evidence, the nature, scope and impact organised crime has across societies in all parts of the world, and that globalisation and open market economics are drivers for organised crime. Policy makers and indeed practitioners in the field seeking to tackle this epidemic would find this book an invaluable and insightful tool.

Here's hoping that constraints on budgets, sadly often on textbooks, do not prohibit some of the National Crime Agency's budget buying a copy.


The Author
David J Dickson, solicitor advocate
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