Multi-agency partnerships to locally fight organised crime
October 2022 – Cities must lead multi-agency partnerships to counter trafficking and organised crime at the local level. This is the main takeaway from the session that Efus organised at the 24-hour online conference of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (#OC24 2022), on 14 October.
Four speakers representing the University of Leeds and the cities of Rotterdam, Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Berlin (Germany)* shared their knowledge and experience of such partnerships.
Effective partnerships are key
Dr Susan Donkin from the University of Leeds summarised the main findings of the review it conducted for IcARUS on 35 years of European urban policies and practices. “Effective partnerships are key, but five conditions must be met,” she said. Each partner must ‘own’ the partnership, i.e., really engage in it. What is expected from each partner must be clearly defined and stated. The differences in terms of power and competences between each partner must be acknowledged. There has to be trust, and information must be shared. The partnership must engage with end-users and beneficiaries, such as local communities and businesses.
Three main approaches
The research showed that three approaches are mainly used to tackle organised crime. The criminal justice approach is based on detecting, prosecuting and convicting criminals. The administrative approach consists in using all the means available to local, regional and national governments to prevent and tackle the misuse of the legal infrastructure such as laundering money through real estate or local businesses. The victim-focused approach relies on international protocols to protect individuals caught up in the web of organised crime.
Identifying what works best locally
“The challenge is to identify which approach is the most effective locally. This requires good coordination between the national and local levels of governance and often the involvement of other stakeholders,” she said. It also requires a precise view of each local context to understand which organised groups are operating where, whether the Mafia or motorcycle gangs, for example.
The review conducted for IcARUS showed that implementation matters and should be properly evaluated. “Multi-agency partnerships and cooperation among the different agencies play a vital part in ensuring efficient implementation.” However, one of the most common issues is precisely the difficulty of making such multi-agency partnerships work.
Rotterdam: a ‘huge’ cocaine problem
Rotterdam is Europe’s largest container port. “We have a huge problem with the importation of cocaine. Defending ourselves against this is essential to the integrity of the port, and of the city as a whole because it has a huge impact on local communities,” said Marty Staničić, from the City of Rotterdam.
The amount of drug seized in the Port of Rotterdam jumped from 13 tonnes in 2016 to 70 tonnes in 2019, according to a study by Erasmus University Rotterdam. This trade caters to markets in Europe, where consumers have purchasing power and transport networks are well-connected and efficient. What are the effects on the City of Rotterdam? “Drug-related incidents are increasing and often violent. Young locals are being recruited into drug trafficking. Large amounts of drug money find their way into the local economy,” she added.
Public-private partnership in Rotterdam
The main challenge for the Port of Rotterdam is that it is jointly operated. Private companies deal with the swift movement of goods, whereas police and the Justice department are primarily concerned with the integrity of the port. The municipality itself also has a role in managing the port.
This is why authorities in Rotterdam have established a wide public-private partnership involving the municipality, the harbour authority, police, the Public Prosecutor, customs, tax authorities, the port company and the trade association for port companies. The municipality coordinates and facilitates the partnership. “The IcARUS project has provided helpful guidelines for the coordination of the partnership,” explained Marty Staničić.
Amsterdam: underground banking capital
“International and local criminals know that Amsterdam is one of the best connected cities in Europe, close to the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. The city has become a key location for the cocaine trade. It is the base of three quarters of the criminal networks operating in the Netherlands. It also has become the capital of underground banking. Organised crime has been chipping away at the rule of law and the very fabric of society,” explained Karin Wilschut from the City of Amsterdam.
She added that the experience on the ground confirms the findings presented by Dr Donkin of the University of Leeds, especially on the importance of wide partnerships involving all the relevant actors. City Hall has “a considerable budget” earmarked for the fight against organised crime. The national government for its part dedicates about €4 billion to this issue.
Joint Strategy Against Drug Crime
Amsterdam pursues a Joint Strategy Against Drug Crime that is signed by the mayor, the chief of police and the chief prosecutor. It comprises five strands: 1) raising awareness on drug trafficking; 2) clearly separating the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drug markets; 3) offering perspectives to vulnerable young people; 4) combatting corruption and undermining subversive crime; 5) countering corruption and excessive violence.
The strategy is being implemented with a combination of three approaches: measures against violence; the administrative approach, and a more victim-oriented, preventive approach.
Karin Wilschut gave the example of the Resilient City programme launched in 2019. It is a wide-ranging programme that seeks, among other things, to better detect crime throughout the city, including underground money flows. Some 1,800 municipal staff have been trained. The municipality also works in partnership with experts such as lawyers, real estate professionals and accountants. One recent success has been the dismantling of an underground banking network and the seizure of 3,000 kilos of cocaïne and €11 million in a clandestine facility.
Berlin: business-like structures
The third city example was Berlin, with Sybille Wilfer from the Berlin Police Department. She explained that “organised crime in Berlin is largely characterised by business-like structures. They try to influence the media, the judicial system and private businesses, which is very challenging to detect.”
The Berlin police cooperates with internal and external agencies and other stakeholders to detect and counter local organised crime groups. “Our strategic focus is on a flexible, holistic, and offender-oriented approach,” she said.
The hacking in 2020 of the (now defunct) Encrochat communication network enabled it to “learn about criminal groups and strategies that had not previously attracted attention but make up a significant proportion of organised crime.”
|Efus’ working group on organised crime|
Set up in December 2019, Efus’ working group on the local roots and impacts of organised crime is led by two member cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Netherlands). Its objectives are to exchange knowledge and practices; promote the development of multi-agency approaches involving
the private sector, civil society organisations and academia, and stimulate cooperation between local/regional and European policy making.
Follow the working group on Efus Network (reserved for Efus members)
|The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime|
The Global Initiative was established after a series of high-level, off the record discussions between (mainly but not exclusively) law-enforcement officials from developed and developing countries in New York, in 2011–2012. Based in Geneva (Switzerland), it is an independent civil-society organisation gathering law-enforcement, governance and development practitioners who seek new and innovative strategies and responses to organised crime.
Website of the Global Initiative
- Watch the replay of the panel session
- The full report on the panel session (minutes and slides) is available (members only) here.
* Dr Susan Donkin, Research Fellow in European Urban Security, University of Leeds; Marty Staničić, Senior Policy Advisor, City of Rotterdam; Karin Wilschut, Strategic Advisor and Deputy Team Manager, City of Amsterdam; and Sybille Wilfer, Detective Chief Inspector and Head of Intelligence Unit, Berlin Police Department.
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