The essential components of an organised crime group are defined by the Australian Institute of Criminology as “a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time, acting in concert with the aim of committing serious criminal offences in order to obtain some financial or material benefit. As such, organised crime requires three or more persons to come together for the execution of their common purpose.” It was recently estimated that organised crime costs Australia around $36 billion dollars each year.
Organised criminals typically operate in multiple sectors across the illicit, grey, and black markets, in both formal and shadow economies. Further, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) warns that “… the threat of organised crime groups in Australia poses a high threat to the Australian way of life. They can range from high profile Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG) to transnational syndicates based offshore.
Cyber and information crime is also a major aspect of organised crime in Australia. Whilst violence is still considered a key influencer of serious and organised crime methods, with the increasing prevalence of the cyber domain as a vector and target for organised criminal acts and major fraud, that is not always the case today. The reach and subsequent impact of successful cyber-attacks have increased dramatically worldwide over the past five years. As such, cybercrime is increasingly being recognised as an evolving and enduring form of transnational crime. Just as ‘cooks’ are an essential part of illicit drug manufacture and highly sought by criminal networks, people with computer skills such as programming, network administration, and general cybercrime-related skills are becoming equally important.
Unauthorised access and dissemination of classified and sensitive information is also a recognised activity attributed to organised crime syndicates. Access to such information could lead to identity theft, fraud or blackmail. Organised Crime may also utilise the coercion – often associated with violence, intimidation and blackmail - of prospective, current, or past staff, contractors and third-party entities to facilitate their activities. Either by such persons directly accessing and stealing information or assisting others to gain unauthorised and unlawful access. Identity crime also continues to be a key enabler of organised crime both within Australia and overseas.
Criminal gangs and individuals - including OMCGs - in many cases lacking the necessary skills, knowledge or access to facilitate crimes in complex financial or computer-based sectors recruit, coerce or extort corporate or government employees, contractors and service providers to help or ‘facilitate’ their criminal activities.
Groups may also commit acts of violent crime to protect their illicit business operations. This can involve the use of violence both within and between groups, whereby violence is recognised as a common feature of organised crime activity because of the lack of recourse to legitimate avenues of dispute resolution, such as police, courts or tribunals. Such violence can result from territorial disputes or disputes over business transactions. Violent acts may also be an opportunistic response to a rival group being the subject of law enforcement activity, with a competitor seeking to capitalise on their adversary’s misfortune by taking over their business, thereby filling the void left in the market.
It is widely known that within organised gangs, a propensity for violence is recognised as an attribute essential for membership and part of probationary periods. At times, this violence will take place in public areas and risk the lives of innocent members of the public. The large number of legal firearms in the community, combined with the number of unregistered (including the grey market) and illicitly sourced firearms ensures a continual and growing supply of firearms to the illicit market; such weapons are sourced by criminal organisations and individuals to facilitate threat acts. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, in their2016 report - Illicit Firearms in Australia - estimated that the illicit firearms market within Australia includes (conservatively) more than 250,000 long-arms and 10,000 handguns.
Further, the increased incidents of drug manufacture, distribution (linked to organised crime), use and associated crime is also a serious issue, both across Australia and around the globe. National and state crime statistics clearly identify illicit drug offences as the main principle crime across Australia. In the ACIC’s 2019 National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report, when comparing data from August 2016 to August 2018, the population-weighted average consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, nicotine and alcohol in both capital city and regional sites increased, while consumption of MDMA and oxycodone in both capital city and regional sites decreased. Scientific glassware and other equipment, as well as chemicals are a valuable resource for illicit drug manufacturing within Australia given law enforcement and government oversight. This makes such items a key target for organised crime and their associates.
Contact us to learn more about our client and business-specific protective security solutions.