This module is a resource for lecturers


Accurate measurement of organized crime is difficult due to the inherently secretive nature of criminal activities and attempts made by criminal organizations to conceal their operations with violence and corruption, as well as other factors such as non-reporting by victims. Official reports of organized criminal activities are limited to reported crimes and therefore can only capture a fraction of organized crime activity. The true extent of organized crime thus remains unknown.

International organizations, such the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), have attempted to measure organized crime by examining product markets and flows rather than focusing on perpetrators. This approach is another way to assess the extent of organized crime globally. In doing so, UNODC has gained international recognition for measuring drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, as well as other crimes on a global scale.

Risk assessment in relation to different types of illicit markets has been widely used to identify potential threats posed by organized crime. Informed by a careful analysis of prevailing threats and the harms they cause, the risk assessment approach allows to identify and understand organized crime both from the perspective of the groups involved and victimized, and the product markets targeted. This information is then used to develop policies that would restrain criminal organizations from offending and even prevent them from forming.

Topics covered

  • Official data
  • Measurement approaches
  • Threat
  • Harm
  • Risk assessment

Learning outcomes

  • Understand different approaches to measuring organized crime.
  • Identify the problems and issues in measuring hidden criminal phenomena.
  • Distinguish the strengths and weaknesses among existing measures of organized crime using official statistics versus estimating flows of illicit products and services.

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