The disruption of serious and organised crime

The disruption of serious and organised crime


What is disruption?

In law enforcement “disruption” is an attempt to develop a smarter approach to controlling serious and organised crime, perpetrated by determined, sophisticated and high-risk offenders who are resilient to conventional methods of crime control. It extends from an ambition in policing to be more intelligence-led, proactive and solutions-focused, and in this way, provide a more effective and efficient service.

In a globalised and digital world, where traditional criminal justice outcomes are more difficult to achieve, it is likely that disruption will become increasingly central to the efforts to control crime. For example, the traditional police focus on organised crime mostly involved drugs or other criminal markets but it has now expanded to include a much greater diversity of threats. These include a growing focus on high volume economic and cybercrime, serious interpersonal crimes such as violence and exploitation, and vulnerable victims and communities. This changed composition has implications for how disruption takes shape, and the value that it can bring across the different criminal contexts.

This project aims to understand what disruption entails, how it is used and its value as a mode of crime control. The project will address the following questions:

  • What defines disruption? Where does it begin and end, and what separates it from other interventions?
  • What are the themes and interventions encapsulated by disruption activity?
  • How do practitioners rationalise the decision to target disruption activity at an offender or group?
  • On what basis is a specific disruption strategy selected and employed?
  • What does strategic and tactical success look like and how does law enforcement account for this?
  • What works in disruption and in what context?
  • What role do organisations in the public and private sector have in disrupting serious and organised crime?

Scope of the research

This research will take a cross-cutting perspective of how disruption is implemented in the UK. It will incorporate strategies adopted across the different tiers of law enforcement, and across the range of criminal contexts, including the offenders and networks, criminal markets, cyber and economic crime, and violent crime and exploitation. Each of these contexts represent a facet of serious and organised crime and call for knowledge, techniques, objectives and partnership organisations that are distinct. Where there are overlaps these will be used to identity cross-cutting themes and learning for disruption in the different areas.

The research will employ a mix of methodologies. Principally, it will involve interviews with stakeholders from across law enforcement and partner agencies on the role of disruption in tackling serious and organised crime. Furthermore, we will conduct interviews with lead investigators from across law enforcement to examine the criminal contexts and the operational decisions and outcomes of disruption in specific case studies.