Opinion

Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) : identifying the priorities in the fight against major crime

One of Europol’s flagship reports, the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) updates Europe’s law enforcement community and decision-makers on such developments in serious and organised crime and the threats it poses to the EU.

Informed by its analysis of the prevailing threats, the SOCTA identifies a number of high priority crime areas that the operational response in the EU should focus on.

Facts

Serious and organised crime is an increasingly dynamic and complex phenomenon that requires robust, intelligence-led response by EU law enforcement.

While traditional crime areas such as international drug trafficking remain a principal cause of concern, the effects of globalisation in society and business have facilitated the emergence of significant new variations in criminal activity.

Criminal networks exploit legislative loopholes, the internet and conditions associated with the economic crisis to generate illicit profits at low risk, for example.

Methodology

The SOCTA methodology allows Europol to understand and assess serious and organised crime holistically. The SOCTA analyses and describes criminal markets and crime areas in the EU; the criminal networks or individual criminals carrying out these criminal activities; as well as the factors in the broader environment that shape the nature of serious and organised crime in the EU.

Europol uses a mixed method approach involving qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques and a set of clearly defined indicators, to identify and specify the most threatening criminal phenomena in the EU. Europol arrives at the recommended priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime for EMPACT based on this methodology. The SOCTA methodology ensures transparency and reliability providing decision-makers with a solid basis for their deliberations.

The findings of the SOCTA 2021 are the outcome of detailed analysis of intelligence gathered as part of the largest data collection on serious and organised crime ever undertaken in the EU. Europol relied heavily on the operational intelligence held in its databases on serious and organised crime to provide a thorough and extensive analysis of the criminal threats facing the EU. Member States, cooperation partners outside the EU and institutional partners contributed almost 4 000 questionnaires on criminal activities and criminal networks. The amount of data provided for the SOCTA 2021 has increased by around 60 % compared to the SOCTA 2017.

The SOCTA is a product of close cooperation between Europol, the law enforcement authorities of the Member States and third parties such as EU agencies, international organisations and countries outside the EU with working arrangements with Europol. The involvement of these crucial stakeholders is also reflected in the SOCTA’s role as the cornerstone of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Crime Threats (EMPACT) in the EU.



Europol (2021), European Union serious and organised crime threat assessment, A corrupting influence: the infiltration and undermining of Europe's economy and society by organised crime, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Download the EU SOCTA 2021 report

The EU SOCTA 2021 is the outcome of a detailed analysis of the threat of serious and organised crime facing the EU, providing information for practitioners, decision-makers and the wider public. As a threat assessment, the SOCTA is a forward-looking document that assesses shifts in the serious and organised crime landscape. The SOCTA 2021 sets out current and anticipated developments across the spectrum of serious and organised crime, identifies the key criminal groups and individuals involved in criminal activities across the EU and describes the factors in the wider environment that shape serious and organised crime in the EU.

The SOCTA 2021 provides an overview of the current state of knowledge on criminal networks and their operations based on data provided to Europol by Member States and partners and data collected specifically for the SOCTA 2021. In trying to overcome the established, and limiting, conceptualisation of organised crime groups, this assessment focuses on the roles of criminals within criminal processes and outlines how a better understanding of those roles allows for a more targeted operational approach in the fight against serious and organised crime.​

  • Close to 40% of the criminal networks active in the EU are involved in the trade in illegal drugs.
  • Around 60 % of the criminal networks active in the EU use violence as part of their criminal businesses.
  • The use of corruption and the abuse of legal business structures are key features of serious and organised crime in Europe. Two thirds of criminals use corruption on a regular basis. More than 80 % of the criminal networks use legal business structures

The SOCTA methodology allows Europol to understand and assess serious and organised crime holistically. The SOCTA analyses and describes criminal markets and crime areas in the EU; the criminal networks or individual criminals carrying out these criminal activities; as well as the factors in the broader environment that shape the nature of serious and organised crime in the EU.


Source : Europol, main reports, 2021

>> 'Europol publishes the European Union (EU) Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment, the EU SOCTA 2021'.

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