Serious organised crime in Scotland: a summary of the evidence

A desk-based review of national and international literature and national operational and mapping data on serious organised crime.

3. The picture of SOC in Scotland

This short section aims to provide a snapshot of SOC in Scotland, giving an indication of its prevalence and of some of the key characteristics of SOC and those involved in it. This brief overview is intended to help contextualise the report, and is then discussed in relation to a wider body of evidence on SOC, within the relevant sections of this report.

Snapshot of SOC in Scotland

While this review draws on a range of sources, as stated, much of the data on SOC and SOC groups come from the strategic assessment .

The strategic assessment provides key, intelligence information on various aspects of SOC groups including: the prevalence of SOC groups across Scotland; the demographic characteristics of their members, and the range of criminal activities they are involved in.

Bearing the limitations already discussed in mind, data from the strategic assessment indicate that SOC groups are active and operate throughout Scotland. There are 213 SOC groups comprising 4,033 'nominals' (individuals involved in SOC) which are currently being investigated by Police Scotland and other agencies. While SOC groups operate across Scotland, they are most concentrated in the west of Scotland: 65% of groups are located in this area. By way of comparison, 21% of groups are located in the east of Scotland and 14% in the north. [19] In year 2015-2016, there were 2,921 arrests of individuals involved in SOC, for a total of 4,418 offences. [20] Within the UK as a whole, it is estimated that there are 5,500 active SOC groups, comprising approximately 37,000 individuals. [21]

The strategic assessment provides information about the demographic characteristics of individuals involved in SOC and basic information about SOC groups. Presented below are some findings:

It is predominantly men who are recorded as being involved in SOC, though a small proportion of women are involved too; approximately just under 90% of SOC offenders are men. [22]

There are 46 individuals under the age of 18 years old who are known to be involved in SOC. This constitutes a 15% increase when compared with the previous year. [23] However, to put this into context, the vast majority of those involved in SOC (the total figure being just over 4,000) are older adults; possible explanations for this will be discussed later in this report.

In the UK, 84% of SOC groups are British. Almost 6% of individuals involved in SOC are foreign nationals. [24]

There is substantial interconnectivity between SOC groups, with some SOC individuals connected to multiple crime groups. [25]


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