Serious Organised Crime

Although serious and organised crime (SOC) is often thought of in a regional, national or international context its impact is most felt by local communities. It harms individuals, families and local businesses alike with rippling implications for even the smallest and most rural communities.

However it is not a crime itself. SOC is controlled and led by organised crime groups (OCGs) that use intimidation tactics and corruption for unlawful gain. OCGs are deceitful and unscrupulous in their pursuit of money, power or personal gratification through the harm of others.

These are hidden crimes that take place around us every day. Too often, the theft of a mobile phone or possession of drugs for personal use enables a more insidious, organised and pervasive criminality such as human trafficking or fraud. SOC has a significant social and economic cost – estimated at £24 billion each year to the overall economy.

Serious and organised crime explained:

Serious Organised Crime takes places within local communities, across local borders, nationally and internationally is dynamic and opportunistic, is perpetrated by groups of networks of individuals that collaborate to establish criminal networks and build resilient and profitable organisations, involves violence, corruption and intimidation to protect and sustain criminal activity, develops access to a diverse set of capabilities across a wide network of individuals, including professionals such as lawyers and accountants, often targeted for their expert knowledge.

The UK Government and National Crime Agency (NCA) define serious and organised crime (SOC) as ‘serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain. Organised criminals working together for a particular criminal activity or activities are called an organised crime group (OCG). These criminals often prey on vulnerable communities and individuals to profit financially or otherwise. They supply and distribute illegal drugs, firearms and counterfeit goods; commit fraud, tax evasion and facilitate human trafficking and child sexual exploitation (CSE).

OCGs undertake the following criminal activities:

  • The organised supply and distribution of drugs
  • Sophisticated theft and robbery
  • Organised child sexual exploitation, including the sharing of indecent images of   children online
  • Human trafficking and modern slavery
  • Fraud and other forms of financial crime
  • The supply of firearms or other weapons and counterfeit goods
  • Cyber crime and cyber-enabled crime, including online grooming, harassment and stalking.

Who are the perpetrators of serious and organised crime?


The majority of organised crime offenders are men and from all different backgrounds. The traditional view of organised crime is of a ‘mafia’ style organised crime group that is hierarchal with strong family links, using violence and intimidation tactics for profit. However, organised crime groups are dynamic and have evolved and adapted to changing environmental factors, such as better international transport links, cyber-enabled activity and access to wider criminal (professional and familial) networks. What is unique about OCGs is that perpetrators often identify themselves as a part of a wider network and not as an individual perpetrator, ie they see the bigger criminal picture.

Who are the victims of serious and organised crime?

The victims of serious and organised crime are local people, communities and businesses. OCGs take advantage of vulnerable people and their communities for their own personal gain. Local people, communities and businesses are most likely to be victims of cyber enabled crime such as online fraud, grooming, harassment or stalking and/or encountering illegal or offensive online content.

The sole purpose of serious and organised crime is personal gain in whatever guise. They can therefore harm communities in many different ways, for example:

  • the supply and distribution of drugs within communities that harm users and can also impact on the local environment;
  • putting children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation, online grooming or exposure to adult or illicit material online;
  • fraud, identity theft and other forms of financial crime can harm the wellbeing of individuals within a community;
  • the supply of firearms or other weapons to threaten or harm individuals;
  • support, enable or profit from human trafficking and modern slavery;
  • The harm caused by serious and organised crime is far reaching and can be very different for individuals, communities and businesses alike;
  • it can include the loss of money or other assets, or harm to business or personal reputation;
  • victims can suffer from anxiety and stress, particularly if they are vulnerable;
  • occasionally victims can be physically injured, subjected to psychological trauma, or killed as a direct or intended consequence of criminal action.

Entire communities can also be victims; for example prevalent drug supply and distribution across a local area can have substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of residents and the overall environment, generating a sense of fear or disquiet. Money laundering, loan sharks, illicit businesses and the exploitation of workers can also harm local communities.

Who is responsible for tackling serious and organised crime?


Everyone. Public sector organisations and law enforcement agencies have a duty to protect the wellbeing of their local communities including: Local Authorities, Police, health, Probation services, social care, education services and immigration enforcement.

Under section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act councils have a responsibility to do all that they reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder in their area. Publically commissioned private and voluntary sector providers must also contribute to prevention efforts through due diligence and information sharing to protect communities from serious and organised crime.

Safer Cornwall is a well-established community safety partnership (CSP) and is well placed to lead on the strategic coordination of this activity. This partnership has a statutory duty to: reduce reoffending; tackle crime and disorder; anti- social behaviour; alcohol and substance misuse; and any other behaviour which has a negative effect on the local environment.

Safer Cornwall Partnership also has access to a wealth of powers available through its partners that can disrupt the activity of local OCGs. Just within Cornwall Council: Trading Standards, planning enforcement, licensing, environmental health, anti-social behaviour and safeguarding powers can minimise the harm of OCGs on local people and communities.


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Safer Cornwall are a working partnership involving: