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Research and independent study questions

a) Would you agree that reports on transnational crime of various governmental and non-governmental organizations cannot be trusted because some of these organizations have a vested interest in the areas they observe and measure? Please explain your position.

b) Go to the UNODC website and review either the Global Reports on Trafficking of Persons or World Drug Reports of the past years. Has anything changed in the data collection process over the years that could affect the changes you observed in the report? Are these changes "real" or are they affected by new/altered data collection strategies, changes in policing, shifts in policy priorities, emergence of new definitions, and availability of additional funding? Refer to some possible sources of distortion, politics of numbers, and problems with official crime statistics, particularly related to the specific transnational organized crimes analysed in the reports.

c) Organized crime is characterized by the existence of an organized criminal group that conducts illegal activities. From this perspective, the main indicator to measure (the risks of) organized crime is the group of individuals who form the organization. Therefore, the first step toward the evaluation of organized crime would consist of defining the number of active groups in the geographical areas analysed and their characteristic features. These features include territorial control and geographical expansion, type of organizational structure and internal management, key illicit activities, association with other criminal organizations, level of technological sophistication, violence and corruption capacities, permeability towards state security bodies and presence in the legal sphere (partnerships with entrepreneurs and legal firms), and other important features.

Write a risk assessment report about one of the major organized criminal groups in your country, region, or locale.

For this assignment, you could use the methodology developed in SOCTA by the Europol (for example, see SOCTA 2013: EU serious and organized crime threat assessment 2013, p. 44.), such as indicators of organized criminal groups (low, medium, high) and risks of organized crime activities (low, medium, high).

Additionally, you can benefit from a table developed by the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada (Integrated Threat Assessment Methodology 2007, p. 19), which provides a more detailed guidance on how low, medium, and high level organized crime threats (of any kind) can be distinguished.

d) Write a risk assessment of one of the substances listed below:

  • Anabolic Steroids
  • K2/Spice
  • Modafinil
  • Poppers (amylmitrite, isomylnitrite, isopentyl nitrite)
  • Captagon

Use the following risks measurement scale in your analysis: Meaning of the Risk Level (RL)

  • risk 1 = Minimal
  • risk 2 = Slight/small
  • risk 3 = Moderate
  • risk 4 = Severe
  • risk n = No expertise / no data / not relevant

Divide your analysis into the following sections:

I. Abuse potential and prevalence of use

II. Health risks

a) Acute health effects

b) Chronic health effects

c) Factors affecting public health risks

III. Social risks

a) Individual social risks

b) Possible effects on direct social environment

c) Possible effects on society as a whole

d) Economic costs

e) Possible effects related to the cultural context (e.g., marginalization)

f) Possible appeal of the substance to specific population groups within the general population

IV. Involvement of organized crime

a) Evidence that organized criminal groups are systematically involved in production, trafficking and distribution

b) Impact on the production, trafficking and distribution of other substances, including existing psychoactive substances as well as new psychoactive substances

c) Evidence of the same groups or people being involved in different kinds of crime

d) Impact of violence from criminal groups on society as a whole or on social groups or local communities (public order and safety)

e) Evidence of money-laundering practices, or impact of organized crime on other socio-economic factors in society

f) Economic costs and consequences (evasion of taxes or duties, costs to the judicial system)

g) Use of violence between or within criminal groups; other security-related risks

h) Evidence of strategies to prevent detection, for example through corruption or intimidation

e) Choose one of the threat assessment reports prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and write a critical essay. Your essay should describe the approach adopted in measuring organized crime and evaluate its benefits and limitations.

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