15 October 2013 17:23

The first ever systematic analysis of the histories of organised criminals in the UK has revealed key differences from general offenders.

Research revealed that organised criminals have the following characteristics:

  • Their average age is older than that of the general offender
  • Commit more offences
  • More likely to begin their criminal career later in life
  • More likely to be from a non-white ethnic background (44%) compared with general offenders (19%)
  • More likely to be born outside the UK (13% compared with 10% of general offenders)
  • Concentrated in London, the North West, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands

Police and law enforcement agencies estimate that there are over 5,500 organised crime groups operating in the UK involving around 37,000 people and costing the UK more than £24 billion each year.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Organised crime is a threat to our national security so it needs a national response to turn the full force of the state against those behind the most serious crimes.”

In 2012 the Home Office commissioned Lancaster University to assist UK law enforcement agencies in further understanding these offenders.

The researchers, Professor Brian Francis, Dr Leslie Humphreys, Dr Stuart Kirby and Professor Keith Soothill, developed a new approach to identify offenders using the Police National Computer.

They then analysed the nature of organised criminality, the demographic backgrounds and criminal histories of those offenders, and the risk factors for their future involvement in organised crime.

The report Understanding Criminal Careers in Organised Crime is published by the Home Office.

The researchers also identified 10 offences which indicated an increased risk of an offender later being convicted of organised crime.

These included: drug possession and supply; forgery of vehicle documents; trading in guns and offences relating to concealing stolen goods.

The leader of the research team, Professor Brian Francis said: “Identifying organised crime offenders has been notoriously difficult. This new approach has tried to identify these offenders from the millions of offender records on the Police National Computer in an effort to provide a more complete overview.”

A further member of the research team, Dr Stuart Kirby, a former Detective Chief Superintendent, said: “ This research adds to the ever increasing knowledge of organised crime and the people who commit it, this in turn generates new techniques to arrest and disrupt the offenders.”