4th June 2018

The changing face of serious organised crime, its impact in communities and the potential for local services to prevent exploitation, have been highlighted in new research.

The 18-month study, which looked at serious organised crime (SOC) with deep roots in specific areas, as well as more ‘mobile’ forms of SOC, was published today (Mon 4 June) by the Scottish Government.

The research, led by SCCJR (Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research) Associate Directors, Dr Alistair Fraser (University of Glasgow) and Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith (University of Stirling) identifies good practice and makes a series of recommendations to enhance Scotland’s collective response to SOC, including:

  • Strengthening links between local services, particularly housing and social work, to help prevent exploitation of vulnerable residents
  • Recognising that “the best asset in responding to organised crime is the community itself”, to develop community resources and local policing models to support community intelligence-gathering, and increased trust in police and other key service providers
  • Considering legislation offering greater powers to respond to exploitation, possibly through a new criminal offence of ‘coercive control’ similar to that for domestic abuse.
  • Challenging the myths around SOC and communicating the real-world consequences of being drawn into organised crime

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.

“Though the majority of people had no direct involvement in serious organised crime there were a range of indirect impacts like fear, social exclusion and stigmatisation.

“While the study showed that these impacts are most extreme in communities where there is entrenched vulnerability from long-term deprivation, they existed throughout society.

“Our fieldwork also suggested that one of the best assets in responding to organised crime is the community itself and we need to find ways to harness this potential.”

Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling, said 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.

“As well as developing new resources within these communities we also need to change the narrative around how we view organised crime.

“We heard from a range of people who saw the logic in participating in these crime groups as being for ‘flash cars’, ready cash and local prestige when in reality very few individuals attained any material success without detriment.

“If we are to address the real damage that is being done we need a counter-narrative that illustrates the difference between the myth and the reality of being involved in these groups.”



The research on community experiences of SOC involved in-depth one-to-one interviews and discussions with residents, schools, businesses, community organisations and public service professionals in a number of areas known to be affected by organised crime.

The Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research (SCCJR) communities research project was led by the Universities of Glasgow and Stirling, with input from the Universities of Abertay and West of Scotland and the Scottish Community Development Centre.

Alistair Fraser has written a blog article ‘Why We Need to Change the Conversation on Serious Organised Crime’

Media contact:
Rachelle Cobain, Communications Officer, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR)
0141 330 1834 / 07752 588 406

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