Public perceptions of organised crime in Scotland: report

Findings from a module of questions on organised crime, included in the winter 2017 wave of the Ipsos MORI Scottish Public Opinion Monitor.

Executive summary

This report presents the findings from a module of questions on organised crime, included in the winter 2017 wave of the Ipsos MORI Scottish Public Opinion Monitor.

The Scottish Public Option Monitor is an omnibus survey carried out by telephone among a random sample of adults across Scotland every quarter. For this wave of the survey, a total of 1,088 respondents were interviewed between 27 November and 5 December 2017.

Key findings

Awareness of organised crime

To gauge awareness of the nature of organised crime in Scotland, respondents were first asked what types of illegal activity they associated with the term. The most common response by some way was drug dealing or trafficking, mentioned by 68%, followed by people or human trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation (22%) and money laundering (21%). These results were broadly consistent with those recorded in 2013, when the questions were last asked.

Asked how serious they thought organised crime was in their neighbourhood, 30% of respondents said it was very or fairly serious, while 67% said it was not very or not at all serious. However, asked how serious they thought organised crime was in Scotland as a whole, almost nine in ten (87%) respondents regarded it as a (very or fairly) serious problem , with just 12% saying it was not very or not at all serious.

The groups perceived to be most affected by organised crime in Scotland were the young (42%), the old (30%) and the economically disadvantaged (16%).

The main perceived impacts of organised crime were drug taking or increased drug use (28%) and fear in the community (23%), followed by damage to victims' health (18%), a reduction in the money available for public services (13%), and violence (12%). The figures for drug taking and damage to victims' health were each higher than in 2013, by 11 and seven percentage points respectively. At the same time, the proportion of respondents unable to identify any impacts was down by four percentage points (from 21% to 17%).

Asked who they thought had a role to play in tackling organised crime in Scotland, respondents most commonly said the Police (87%). That said, around a third (37%) mentioned the Scottish Government and around a quarter (26%) said "everyone". The proportion of respondents who said that organised crime was an issue for everyone was higher than in 2013 (15%).

Experience of organised crime

As in 2013, one in ten respondents said they had personally been affected by organised crime in the last three years. Of this group, around three-quarters reported having been a victim, while 17% said they had been a witness and 12% said they had been affected in some other way. Asked what specific type of organised crime was involved, respondents gave a wide range of answers, though the most common of these were theft (18%), violence (17%), cyber crime (15%) and housebreaking (14%).

Of all those who reported having been a victim of, and/or witness to, organised crime, almost nine in ten (86%) said they had reported the incident [1] . Most commonly they had reported it to the Police (87%), though around one in ten had reported it to their bank (11%), their employer (10%), or a shop or retailer (7%).

Sixty per cent of respondents thought the Police were effective in tackling organised crime, while 22% thought they were ineffective, similar to the results for 2013.


Overall, the findings from 2017 were remarkably consistent with those for 2013, including in relation to general awareness of the types of illegal activity associated with organised crime; the perceived seriousness and impact of such activity; and the number of respondents who had personally been affected (around one in ten in both years).

At the same time, the latest survey provided new insights into the ways people had been affected and specifically the relative proportions of those affected (101 people) who had been victims (74%), witnesses (17%) or affected in some other way (12%) [2] . It also pointed to an increase over the last three years in the proportion of respondents saying that it is "everyone's" responsibility to tackle organised crime, perhaps reflecting the impact of communication campaigns. Repeating the survey again in future years will enable the Scottish Government to assess whether this change represents part of a longer-term shift in opinion and, more generally, to track how the public's awareness and perceptions of organised crime is evolving as policy and strategy in this area unfold.


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