POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Bojan Dobovšek


Organized crime is a major problem in most European countries. Inspite of that, there is no generally accepted definition of organised crime yet. In fight against organised crime, it is essential to collect and analize information about organized crime sistematically. For this purpose we need the determination of an appropriate policy to fight organized crime and internationally recognised definition of organized crime. Since we have no such definition the data are hard to compare. There is also differences in judical sistems, differences in the police registration methods, registration of criminal offences and police activities. What is common, is an understanding of the features that characterize the way in which organized criminal groups operate. That is why we have to compare the organized crime characteristics in different countries to work out the basis for future definition of organized crime. Unfortunately numerous trials of European countries in the field of the international co-operation, directed in to the search of new strategies and tactics of suppression of organised crime, have given only scant results.

Keywords: organised crime, definition of organised crime, corruption, international cooperation, measuring organised crime.


There is no generally accepted definition of organised crime yet, due mostly to the quick development and changing of the forms in which organised crime appears. Since high professionality, organisation and nearly unlimited financial means are characteristic for organised crime, the situation in this field is constantly aggravating. The profits represent an ever increasing danger for the State and the society, since organised crime invests them on one side in completely legal business - money laundry - , while on the other side they represent an enormous corruption potential. This is the reason why a political question appears here, namely, how can a certain society take care of the safety of its inhabitants and its State as an organisation.

From the above characteristics derive all the evaluations about the corruption and the connections of organised crime with legal structures of the state, which clearly points on its great social danger and the jeopardizing of the security system. That is why the organised crime is not the problem of the police alone; it is essential to begin the suppression of organised crime on the bases of new tactics and strategies, with the co-operation of all parts of the society and through a carefully prepared programme of national safety, as well as through international co-operation. The initiatives for the acceptance of a uniform definition of organised crime are the first steps, which will give the basis for further work in this field. All the efforts of the world community are oriented towards the finding of a proper definition of organised crime, since there exist many such definitions of which none could be accepted as a final one. The uniform world definition is necessary because of the internationalisation of the problem of organised crime and because of the danger it represents for the entire society (Wilton Park Paper, 1995).

More important than just a formal definition is the understanding and the characteristics, which define the activities of the organisations, dealing with organised crime. On the grounds of such characteristics it can be determined when and how many of special measures will be used in the fight against organised crime. These important characteristics are being reflected through all the working definitions of organised crime.

From the above mentioned, a question arises whether it is possible to define the notion "organised crime", and if yes, which requisitions should be put forward for such definition. The basis of such definition should be the clarification of all the forms of appearance of organised crime. Once such forms of organised crime are recognised, they would have to be standardised and arranged into various areas.

It is impossible to speak about the national state of organised crime independently from the outside influences because of the existing international connections. The internationality of criminal groups and places of their activities make the co-ordination of the international police

analyses and investigations more difficult. We therefore need a coordination of valid legal regulations in the area of criminal justice, penal procedure legislation, administrative legislation and judicial and constitutional legislation. As long as Europe remains a state formation with different legal systems, the co-operation will repeatedly have to face various limitations, which are not limiting the perpetrators, since the role of national governments remains a true problem for all that see the formation of Europe as the surpassing of national States. The boundary line between the international legislation and the national security becomes therefore more and more important. It is necessary to become reconciled with the fact, that organised crime is mainly the problem of the State in which it is active (Wilton Park Paper, 1994).

Though Europe is trying to take over some of the methods for the suppression of organised crime from the experiences of the United States of America, it nevertheless seems that these measures are already out of date, and cannot be transferred in an existing environment , though they are worth being reconsidered. We can not entirely compare the criminal organisation in Europe with the one in the U.S.A., mostly because of the large concentration of States on a smaller territory, which is manifold because of national, economic, cultural, historical, religious, social and other specifics. On this manifold territory, it is essential that a closer co-operation develops between national police forces in the fight against organised crime (Abadinsky, 1988).

Unfortunately, numerous trials of European countries in the field of the international co- operation, directed in to the search of new strategies and tactics of suppression of organised crime, have given only scant results. Thus the foundation of the TREVI Group, the Schengen Agreement and the foundation of the EUROPOL were accompanied by many problems, political and legal by nature, and due to them the success of the co-operation is far behind the expectations.1

The efforts of the States, united within the frame of the Europol, to unify the fight against organised crime, regularly stop at the numerous diversities. Different States use different tactics of fight against organised crime. The power of organised crime varies from country to country ant the forms of organised crime are different mostly because of the geographic, economic and social factors in individual countries.

It is often impossible to compare the crime in various States due to different levels of extent of incrimination of various activities. If certain activity is in one State defined as a criminal offence, it may only be a violation in another one or not punishable at all somewhere else. Essential differences can also be found in the qualifications of various types and appearances of criminal offences. A comparison of crime indicators between various legal systems is therefore questionable from the methodological point of view. It has sense only with specific forms of serious criminal deeds, like murders, robberies, etc., which represent approximately the same social dangers in various countries and are therefore incriminated in a very similar way.

As we can see, organised crime is not a new world phenomenon. However, despite the long tradition of the appearance of this phenomenon, the trials to measure organised crime have appeared only recently. Because of different approaches and methods of measurement of organised crime, the efforts to unify the criteria for the measurement of organised crime have appeared within the frame of the Europol. The first obstacle that became obvious with the effortPs to define the criteria for the measuring of organised crime, is the definition of organised crime itself, which varies from State to State. It is therefore necessary, for an effective comparison, to prepare the unified criteria first, which would be the basis for further activities (Fijanut, 1990).

It is possible to measure the movements of organised crime in a State, but there is no systematic data collection and data analysis between individual States, though it would be necessary with regard of the international policy of fight against organised crime. It is therefore necessary to try to obtain systematic collection and analysis of information on international organised crime, which would have to be one of the further tasks.

As a prerogative for the successful solution of the problem, it would be necessary to accept a strategic plan, based on the uniformly accepted definition of organised crime and an adequate national security policy. It would also be necessary to prepare the methodology for the measurement of the movements of organised crime.

Because of non uniformed definitions of organised crime and inaccessibility of the data, due to the data protection legislation in various states, the data about the movement of organised crime in Europe could hardly be compared. The differences of measurements derive from different notification of data in various States ( there is a differentiation between the on-going investigations and the already concluded ones, some of the countries show only the joint data) (Heijeden, 1995).

From the survey of data obtained by various States it can be concluded, that it is very hard to measure organised crime because of:

Nevertheless, the results are more or less comparable and they all show, that organised crime is increasing (First World Conference on New trends in Criminal Investigation and Evidence, 1995). Inspite of that the amount of reported crime in Western European countries has stabilized during the late 1980 and the early 1990s. This can be seen in next diagram.


Source: Matti Joutsen, Director, Heuni, 1996.2

In the period of a quick flow of information, the exchange of information on the fight against organised crime is therefore much more important. The organised crime has developed within the past 30 years in a conglomerate of crime and technological innovations. At the same time the ideological and political barriers were growing on the other side, which neutralised the successful fight against this enemy of the modern society. With the development of communications and with the introduction of plastic and electronic money, the control over financial currents got worse, since money is loosing its identity through these transactions and thus enables the money laundry. Should we try to increase such control we would encounter the question of the protection of individuality and of the basic human rights. The development of democracy gives power to all kinds of crime. A political definition of the goals will be necessary , in order to ensure protection and further development of the human rights. There were numerous important changes of crime methods, while there were no such changes of the human rights (United Nations, World ministerial conference on organized transnational crime, 1994).

One of the characteristics of organised crime in the 70's was that it was extremely nationally coloured. In the 80's it became more sophisticated and specialised, since the criminals specialised themselves in the areas of economy, computers and money laundry. Due to political changes in the 90's the ethnically coloured groups of organised crime and their international collaboration appeared again. The new characteristics of these groups was the fight for power and domination. This very characteristics is the most dangerous for the national security system. Beside the above mentioned new ethnic groups, the old groups that developed earlier, remained as well (the Mafia, the Cammorra,etc.) together with the highly specialised groups (Home Affairs Committe, 1994-95).

There are plenty of problems that appear in the field of the fight against organised crime. The sanctions and the punishments are not adapted to the new situation. Because of the great mobility of the capital throughout the geographically unlimited areas, new techniques have appeared for the money laundry. The strategy of the criminal associations is advancing rapidly while the co-operation between the police forces and between other services is too slow.

The laws are unstable and different between various States, specially regarding special methods and means. New evidential procedures are complicated and are not coordinated between the States. On the other hand new forms of organised crime appear each year, the territories that such groups control, are increasing, the power of the organisations increases, specially with their investing in completely legitimate business'. If the police introduces new methods in the fight against organised crime, the criminals immediately begin with the use of new, even more sophisticated methods for the acquisition and spreading of their powers. It can be seen that the traditional forms of fight against crime are not adequate for the modern forms of organised crime and that it would be necessary to start a joint action of all institutions in a society, that could in any way contribute in the fight against organised crime. We specifically think here of stronger bonds between the police and the Courts. So far three forms of fight against organised crime have proven to be successful: the control of the drug market, the control of money circulation and the international co-operation.

It is hard to say what forms the organised crime will take in the future, but the reality is not very far from some science fiction movies.


  1. See more, First World Conference on New Trends in Criminal Investigation and Evidence, The Hague, december 1995.

  2. See more in Matti Joutsen, Recent trends in Crime in Western Europe, 1996.

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