Serious organised crime study cites impact of drugs trade as main concern

4 June 2018, 12:15

Police Scotland

Ministers are to consider the recommendations of a study into serious organised crime (SOC) which cited the impact of illicit drugs on communities as its main concern.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the report, which took 18 months to compile, would help to inform how the Scottish Government can support and protect people affected by SOC.

Researchers stated that the "harmful consequences" of the illicit drugs market on communities was the primary area of concern identified.

One in ten people have personally been affected by SOC in the past three years, according to an Ipsos Mori survey.

The survey also highlighted a "growing awareness" that everyone has a role in tackling the issue.

Mr Matheson - who was due to attend an SOC taskforce at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire - said: "Recent high-profile convictions of people involved in organised crime, supported by strong partnership work at the Crime Campus, send a clear message that Scotland is a hostile environment for those who prey on our communities.

"This in-depth report offers personal perspectives on the effects of organised crime locally, particularly on the vulnerable.

"It builds our understanding of the impact of such crime and how best we can support people and protect them from harm.

"We will consider carefully the recommendations as we continue strengthening our collective approach to tackling and preventing organised crime."

The study makes recommendations to tackling SOC, including strengthening links between local services, particularly housing and social work, to help prevent the exploitation of vulnerable residents.

It suggests developing community resources and local policing to support community intelligence-gathering.

The study also recommends legislation offering greater powers to respond to exploitation and a new criminal offence of "coercive control".

Police should also challenge the myths around SOC and communicate the "real-world consequences of being drawn into organised crime", the report claimed.

Researcher Dr Alistair Fraser, senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, said: "For the first time, we have been able to hear from people living in communities across Scotland where organised crime is part of everyday life.

"The study shows that while organised crime might be thought of as glamorous, it is rooted in deep and enduring forms of harm and exploitation at community level."

Researcher Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith, senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, added: "Tackling serious organised crime can no longer be seen as principally a policing issue.

"We need a stronger set of partnerships across policing, community groups and service providers in order to better identify and address vulnerability and exploitation linked to organised crime."