Europol Makes Serious Crime Threat Assessment 2021
April 20, 2021
has published the European Union
(EU) Serious and Organised Crime
Threat Assessment, the
EU SOCTA 2021.
The SOCTA, published by Europol
every four years, presents a
detailed analysis of the threat of
serious and organised crime facing
the EU. The SOCTA is a
forward-looking assessment that
identifies shifts in the serious and
organised crime landscape.
EU citizens enjoy some of the
highest levels of prosperity and
security in the world. However, the
EU still faces serious challenges to
its internal security, threatening
to undo some of our common
achievements and undermine shared
European values and ambitions. As
the EU is facing the COVID-19
pandemic, one of the most
significant crises since the end of
World War II, criminals seek to
exploit this extraordinary situation
targeting citizens, businesses, and
public institutions alike.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the potential economic and social fallout expected to follow threaten to create ideal conditions for organised crime to spread and take hold in the EU and beyond. Once more confirmed by the pandemic, a key characteristic of criminal networks is their agility in adapting to and capitalising on changes in the environment in which they operate. Obstacles become criminal opportunities.
Like a business environment, the core of a criminal network is composed of managerial layers and field operators. This core is surrounded by a range of actors linked to the crime infrastructure providing support services.
With nearly 40 percent of the criminal networks active in drugs trafficking, the production and trafficking of drugs remains the largest criminal business in the EU.
The trafficking and exploitation of human beings, migrant smuggling, online and offline frauds and property crime pose significant threats to EU citizens.
Criminals employ corruption. Almost 60% of the criminal networks reported engage in corruption.
Criminals make and launder billions of euros annually. The scale and complexity of money laundering activities in the EU have previously been underestimated. Professional money launderers have established a parallel underground financial system and use any means to infiltrate and undermine Europe’s economies and societies.
Legal business structures are used to facilitate virtually all types of criminal activity with an impact on the EU. More than 80% of the criminal networks active in the EU use legal business structures for their criminal activities.
The use of violence by criminals involved in serious and organised crime in the EU appears to have increased in terms of the frequency of use and its severity. The threat from violent incidents has been augmented by the frequent use of firearms or explosives in public spaces.
Criminals are digital natives. Virtually all criminal activities now feature some online component and many crimes have fully migrated online. Criminals exploit encrypted communications to network among each other, use social media and instant messaging services to reach a larger audience to advertise illegal goods, or spread disinformation.
Portugal’s Minister for Justice,
Francisca Van Dunem: "The
strengthening of the Area of
Freedom, Security and Justice
requires us all to build a Europe
where citizens feel safe, free and
protected, a Europe that promotes
justice for all, ensuring respect
for human rights and protecting
victims of crime. Cooperation and
information sharing are essential to
combat serious and organised crime
and terrorism and to tackle the
threat the EU is confronted with.
Therefore, at a time of transition
to the new EMPACT cycle 2022-2025,
SOCTA 2021 is of particular
relevance in identifying priorities
for the operational response to