Publication - Strategy/plan

Serious organised crime strategy

Published: 18 Jun 2015

This strategy is about all of Scotland working together to reduce the harm caused by serious organised crime.

26 page PDF

398.4 kB

26 page PDF

398.4 kB

Serious organised crime strategy
What is Serious Organised Crime?

26 page PDF

398.4 kB

What is Serious Organised Crime?

For the purposes of this strategy, Serious Organised Crime is crime which:

  • involves more than one person;
  • is organised, meaning that it involves control, planning and use of specialist resources;
  • causes, or has the potential to cause, significant harm; and
  • involves benefit to the individuals concerned, particularly financial gain.

What does Serious Organised Crime look like in Scotland? [2]

  • A total of 232 Serious Organised Crime Groups ( SOCGs) are recorded as operating in Scotland, made up of about 3,700 individuals.
  • 70% of SOCGs are located in the West of Scotland, 18% in the East and 12% in the North.
  • There is evidence to suggest that Serious Organised Crime has a disproportionate impact on Scotland's poorer communities, contributing to social and economic inequalities.
  • 65% of SOCGs are involved in drug crime; heroin is the most popular commodity, followed by cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine and tranquilisers.
  • Other crime types include violence; money laundering; various forms of fraud including cigarette smuggling and tax fraud; human trafficking; metal theft; bogus workmen and cybercrime.
  • Human trafficking occurs throughout Scotland and is not confined to its major cities. Human trafficking has been identified in Argyll, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh, Skye and Aberdeen. [3]
  • Police investigations relating to bogus workmen and doorstep crime have found that the average age of victims is 81. Most victims are women who live alone. After a crime of this type, victims suffer more rapid declines in health than non-victim peers. [4]
  • 65% of SOCGs are involved in the use of seemingly legitimate businesses. The most common business types are licensed premises, taxis, restaurants, shops, garage repairs and vehicle maintenance, and property development. Over 650 such businesses have been identified.

How does Serious Organised Crime harm people in Scotland?

Serious Organised Crime comes in any number of guises but is all about generating wealth at the expense of other people. It is about exploiting honest, law-abiding people, including the most vulnerable members of our communities. The examples used throughout this document show the devastating impact such crime can have on our citizens, communities, businesses and public services.

Kidnap and extortion:

A large scale drug deal involving Serious Organised Crime Groups ( SOCGs) in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool turned sour. In an effort to recover their cash, the Liverpool SOCG enlisted the assistance of Glasgow-based criminals. A number of men went to an address in Edinburgh and bundled a 16-year-old relative of one of the Edinburgh criminals into a car, before driving him to England. He was handed over to the Liverpool SOCG, who threatened the victim's life unless a substantial ransom was paid. As a significant police operation commenced, the Edinburgh SOCG was believed to have armed themselves with firearms for protection. Following investigation, the victim was located safe and well and five people were arrested.

Metal theft:

In July 2013 a mile of cable was stolen from the Aberdeen to Inverness railway line. The theft caused the cancellation of trains between Inverurie and Huntly for two days. A British Transport Police spokesman said: "There is a common assumption that cable theft is a victimless crime, with the only effects being felt by the railway industry. This is not the case. Theft of cable can, and does, cause significant delays and cancellations to the rail industry - as well as costing the industry millions of pounds each year."

Bogus workmen:

A criminal enquiry carried out jointly by Trading Standards and police officers revealed that a Crime Group had targeted victims suffering from advanced dementia or other vulnerabilities. In one case a family member had contacted Trading Standards, worried that her elderly aunt had been overcharged. She had been told that the wood in her loft was rotten and the floor was damp. She had paid £8,500 up front, then £16,000 - with no receipt. A council building officer later estimated that the work had been worth just £1,400. He also told her there was no damp that would have affected the fabric of the building.

Cigarette smuggling:

HMRC disrupted smugglers illegally importing cigarettes from China through Grangemouth container port. It is estimated that the smugglers would have evaded around £160,000 in excise duty. This is money that would have gone into crooks' pockets rather than being spent on public services for the benefit of the whole community. In addition, the sale of smuggled cigarettes is unregulated, with cigarettes often sold to children and young people and not subject to quality controls. Cigarette smuggling also has an impact on local shopkeepers who suffer when sales are lost to the black market.

Payment fraud:

A criminal enquiry carried out jointly by NHSScotland Counter Fraud Services and Police Scotland discovered that a payment of £120,000, due to be paid to a building contractor for an ongoing building refurbishment contract with an NHS Board, had been diverted into a fraudster's account. NHS Accounts Payable Staff had been the subject of an organised and elaborate scam that resulted in fraudsters convincing staff to alter bank account information. This social engineering had involved the use of simulated telephone numbers and email account details with the fraudsters gradually gathering key information over a period of time. The scam was only discovered when the building contractor contacted the NHS Board to chase up the payment.

Cyber attack:

Early in 2015, a large Scottish business was the victim of a sustained Ransomware [5] attack. The Ransomware was spread through spam emails with malicious attachments and resulted in approximately 100,000 business critical files being encrypted. Once infected, the business was presented with a ransom notification and instructions on how to pay the ransom. In order to counter the attack, all infected machines were removed from the corporate network, forensically cleaned and malware removed. All files, drives and data were then restored. All of this had a huge financial impact with numerous members of staff unable to access files and unable to carry out normal day-to-day business.

New Psychoactive Substances:

A young woman went to a house party. She consumed a white powder which she was sure was M-CAT, a common New Psychoactive Substance. She displayed the usual signs of abnormal behaviour associated with stimulants but after a couple of hours became unwell and lost consciousness. Paramedics and police were called. She was found to be very hot to the touch and unresponsive. In the ambulance she had a cardiac arrest. The emergency services managed to restart her heart but she was not breathing for herself. On arrival at the A & E, it was noted that her body temperature was 42 degrees (normal being 36-37). Her muscles were rigid and she had a further cardiac arrest and died. The drug was subsequently identified as a modification of a dietary weight loss drug, which has since been reclassified as a class A drug.

Drug addiction:

Susan, a woman in her late 30's, had been in contact with a Drug Crisis Centre for a number of years and used the needle exchange services. She was a regular smoker of crack cocaine, and ingested diazepam, as well as injecting a large quantity of heroin on a daily basis. She funded her drug use through sex working, had been subjected to violence during her work, and had tested positive for Hepatitis C. She had criminal convictions, had spent time in prison, had been homeless and lost access to her children.

Human trafficking:

Maria, a 21-year old woman from the Czech Republic, had worked as a prostitute in Prague for two years. During this time she met a man who became her boyfriend and agreed to give him 50% of her income. The boyfriend convinced Maria to travel to Scotland with him. Maria was taken to a flat in which another woman was selling sex and men were already waiting to pay for sex with Maria. The doors and windows of the flat were locked; Maria was not allowed to go out of the flat unaccompanied. When she became worried that she was pregnant, Maria called her boyfriend for help and to ask if she could go home. He refused to help her and told her she had to repay the £1,000 that he claimed she owed him. A few days later, Maria found that the door to the flat was unlocked. She grabbed her phone and what little money she had, and ran out into the street. She called her family to ask for help. Her family called the local police station in the Czech Republic, who contacted Police Scotland. With the help of Police Scotland and the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance, Maria was able to return safely to Prague and was reunited with her family.