The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) published their research focuses on the six European Union (EU) accession candidates from the Western Balkans (WB6): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Its objectives are to map the phenomenon and main characteristics of organized crime groups (OCGs) in the region. The analysis is based on the research of both primary and secondary data, using expert interviews, police announcements, official statistics, national SOCTA documents, etc.
The study finds that OCGs from some countries such as Albania, Montenegro and Serbia developed largely international networks with 30 and more members. These OCGs represent the main actors and leaders of organized crime (OC) in the region. Other OCGs which have fewer members (from 3-4 to around 15), perform mainly on a national level or as facilitators of bigger OCGs. Male gender is the most common (in about 90% of the cases). Women are engaged in logistic activities, although there are individual cases where they are higher in the criminal group hierarchy. The age of the members can vary between 20 and 50 years old, depending on the activity and territory. The estimated average is around 35, but there are cases of members aged 65 and over. The nationalities and ethnicities of the OCGs follow the patterns of their regions, having solid bonds with their families and traditions. However, differences in background do not stop OCGs to cooperate and make criminal networks.
The main criminal activities performed by the OCGs in WB6 are the illicit drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. At the same time, illegal firearms and explosives trafficking and money laundering serve as facilitators of the major activities. Less frequent crime types are organized property crimes, where smuggling of goods is the most prominent activity. Trafficking in human beings has recently been much-evoked in public, mainly by large migration going through the Balkans and creating opportunities for illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, it seems like the authorities currently do not identify big OCGs in the trafficking of human beings. In addition, cybercrime represents an incremental trend, but there also seem to be no prominent OCGs which perform it as a core activity.
Did organized crime groups continue with their activity at the time of Coronavirus, which trends in the criminal activities in the Western Balkans can be noticed in the first six weeks of the pandemic and which scenarios can be envisaged for the future?
The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy published a report on criminal activities in the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 outbreak – Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings. The report was prepared by their researcher Saša Đorđević.
The report states that “The region has experienced a small increase in the price of marijuana, which is still very much present on the market. The same applies to stimulant drugs” and that “People with drug and alcohol problems, persons living with HIV, those who are susceptible to stress, citizens with mental health problems, pensioners, the poor, the homeless and recently released prisoners are the biggest potential victims of crime during this pandemic crisis.”
Scenarios envisaged for the future include the one that “There will be a decline in the supply and quality of illegal drugs. The price of heroin substitutes is expected to increase. It is certain that criminal groups will find alternative ways of distributing narcotics and other illegal products in urban areas, using mobile technologies and couriers, but also corruption of law enforcement. It is possible that criminal groups will shift their manufacturing and logistics activities to smaller towns and rural areas, where they will be less visible.”
With information we received from our member organisations from around the region, DPNSEE provided significant contribution to the report section that deals with Narcotics, but also general comments and proposals for recommendations.
Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is an independent think-tank publicly advocating human, national, regional and international security based on democracy and respect for human rights.
A coalition of seven NGOs entitled prEUgovor, which monitors Serbia’s EU accession process, presented a new report that contains the coalition’s assessment of the political criteria for the EU accession process, as well as the fulfilment of criteria for chapters 23 and 24 which include the judiciary, fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security for the period April – September 2018.
Commenting at the presentation, DPNSEE Executive Director remarked that the report has no reference to the segment on drugs which is integral part of the Chapter 24 and presented some warning facts about the issue. DPNSEE and the coalition have working relations which both sides hope to be improved in the future.