20 January 2011

Organised crime and the efforts to combat it: a concern for public health

A very interesting open access article in the journal Globalization and Health at:


Read the whole article but to whet your appetite here is their conclusion about the value of a public health perspective in this area:

First, it recognises the importance of looking
upstream, avoiding what has long been termed “victim
blaming” in which existing law enforcement measures
often criminalise the victims, such as those who have
been trafficked, or vulnerable people who have developed
addictions. They are often much easier to identify
than those who control the business, and are unable to
evade the consequences through bribery or intimidation.

Second, it emphasises the importance of evidence of
effectiveness. Unfortunately, there is still limited
research to draw on; the Campbell Collaboration http://
www.campbellcollaboration.org does now contain systematic
reviews of interventions to tackle crime, but so
far most address primarily micro-level issues. Rigorous
and comprehensive evaluation is especially important in
this area given the evidence reviewed above showing the
scope for unintended consequences.

Third, it has long recognised the importance of context.
Organised crime is more common in countries
when the rule of law is weak. An absence of high-level
political interference, strong private sector governance
and regulation, an effective judicial system, and an independent
and honest judiciary all deter corrupt behaviour
and weaken criminal networks [114]. Research on illicit
drug use in both recipient and supplier countries
identifies how “the capacity of the state to maintain a
viable and legitimate presence in local communities
determined the extent to which drug-related activities
developed and consolidated at local level” [14]. Consequently,
it is necessary to take account of the quality of
governance in implementing any measures.

Fourth, a public health approach stresses the importance
of inter-sectoral collaboration. Addressing the
major threats to health today requires inputs from many
sides. Organised crime is no exception. Yet, too often
the relevant experts exist within silos, rarely seeing the
need to engage with each other. The public health community
can play a convening role, helping to break
down these barriers.

To conclude, the tentacles of organised crime have
huge reach, as demonstrated above, and may adversely
impact the health of many millions of people around
the globe. Through fear induced by brutality and corruption,
the perpetrators enjoy not only a high level of
impunity but also extraordinary invisibility. We hope
that, by bringing together a wide range of evidence from
disparate areas of research, we have begun to make the
case for a joined-up, evidence-based approach to addressing
the global health consequences of organised crime.