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19 June 2015
More than 230 organised crime gangs in Scotland, report police

More than 230 organised crime gangs in Scotland, report police

Ministers have set out a fresh approach to tackling serious organised crime amid warnings criminals are diversifying into new areas of activity.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said there was a need for a more sophisticated approach to tackling serious organised crime given substantial increases in the likes of cybercrime as well as human trafficking. 
It came as new figures showed more than 230 serious organised crime groups (SOCGs) are recorded as operating in Scotland, comprising around 3,700 individuals.

Around 44 per cent of groups are involved in multiple types of crime and criminals are also now moving into areas such as the renewable energy sector, high value vehicle theft, reactivation of firearms, pension fund fraud and mortgage fraud.

Figures show that two-thirds of SOCGs have links to seemingly-legitimate businesses in Scotland, including taxis, restaurants and property development. Over 650 such businesses have been identified.

Work is also under way to clarify the extent to which groups are currently involved in child sexual exploitation and the distribution and sale of new psychoactive substances.

As part of an updated strategy published yesterday, businesses, local authorities and other public bodies have all been encouraged to take steps to help tackle serious organised crime.

MSPs, MPs and councillors have been urged to protect themselves from “any risk of blackmail or pressure” as well as work with officials to put in place and apply “robust procurement and licensing processes”. 

Matheson said: “There’s no place for serious organised crime in Scotland and I’m proud of the innovative approach we’re taking to tackle it head on, from the ‘Mr Bigs’ to the white-collar criminals exploiting our economy.

“Our success over the past eight years since the Taskforce was set up is evident however it is clear to me that the time is now right to shift direction to become even more sophisticated in tackling emerging crime trends.

“By working together, agencies are sending a really strong message that there’s no place for criminals to hide and we will not allow them to peddle misery in our communities.”

The Scottish Government has committed to publishing annual reports on progress in delivering the strategy from autumn next year.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “Serious organised crime in Scotland has diversified into new areas of activity while retaining a significant grip on traditional markets such as drug importation and distribution.

“We are now seeing criminals engaged in sophisticated economic crimes, environmental crime, social engineering fraud – all in the name of profit and all under-pinned by violence and intimidation.

“Police Scotland and our partners in the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce are absolutely committed to doing all we can to keep people safe, to diminish the threat from serious organised crime and to allow our communities to exist free from the impact of such criminality.”

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