Police have no grasp on organised crime activity, says director

Police have no grasp on organised crime activity, says director
Omaging: gathering intelligence on organised crime from all possible sources

The federal judicial police have little or no grasp of organised crime in Belgium, with proactive operations “practically impossible,” according to Eric Snoeck, the acting head of the service.

Snoeck was speaking at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the academic journal on criminology, Panopticon. He called for the attention given to terrorism in recent years to be matched in the fight against organised crime. His detectives are responsible of fighting the most serious forms of crime: international drugs trading, complex financial and economic fraud, cybercrime and so on. An important facet of that work is what he refers to by the medical term “imaging” – the gathering of intelligence in order to create a picture of the criminal underworld, and a map on the complex relationships between various groups.

The imaging of organised crime has come to a standstill,” he said. “In our approach to everything above local crime we are terribly weakened.” His department deals mainly with matters which extend farther than one police zone or indeed one judicial area. “Not only because the imaging has stopped, but also because we are barely able to say what the current trends in criminality are.” And he gave the example of the recent cyber-attack using ransomware on the Ypres weaving machine company Picanol, which crippled the company for a week. The number of officers who could be deployed to that case, he said, “can be counted on the fingers of two hands.”

The key question is whether we should not urgently improve our approach to organised crime,” he said. “In recent years a great deal has been done about terrorism. Now the time has come for our work on organised crime to be raised to the same level. There are good things happening federally and locally, but it all remains terribly artisanal.”

As a start along that road, he said, his service has begun dealing with the blind spot in the imaging of organised crime, by starting to map the various groups and their members. “We are bringing all kinds of information together, including internationally,” he said. “The aim is to be able then to use that intelligence tactically.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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