Brief

Europol exit harms fight against organized crime

Summary Organised criminals have a turnover of 4.800 billion DKK worldwide each year and Europe is one of the places with the highest trade of illegal goods, such as drugs, smuggled and counterfeited items. More than 3,600 organised crime groups operate in the EU alone, with their most common offenses being smuggling, selling narcotics, money laundering, burglary, receiving stolen property and trafficking human beings and illegal goods.
 
The European police cooperation in Europol plays a key role in fighting these types of organised crime, but now, due to its opt-out in the EU field of justice and home affairs, Denmark could be forced to leave Europol. The opt-out is not in the Danes’ best interest, an analysis carried out by Think Tank EUROPA shows.
 
Denmark is already feeling the effects of this development. An increase in the number of burglaries committed by organised criminal gangs is one example, and in 2012 Denmark had the second-highest number of break-ins per 100.000 inhabitants. The number of Eastern European criminal groups who have broken into Danish homes has risen in recent years, and in the first quarter of 2014 the number of Eastern Europeans charged with committing offenses rose to 2351. Minister for Justice Karen Hækkerup recently established a working group to investigate how to improve efforts to fight criminal gangs. This is a difficult task without being able to cooperate closely with other countries in Europol, according to Think Tank EUROPA’s analysis.
 
With the second lowest number of police officers per 100.000 citizens in the EU, Denmark is in great need of being able to draw on the European police cooperation’s assistance to combat its rising number of burglaries. The Danish police force represents only 0.6 percent of the EU member states’ police forces put together, and in the fight against cross-border organised crime Denmark benefits from cooperating with the EU countries’ approximately two million police officers. Its exchange of information with Europol has doubled in just four years, and Danish police uses Europol’s expertise, databases and analyses when investigating local, national and international cases. In 2013, the Danish police made ​​65,451 searches in the Europol Information System (EIS), which represents 20.4 percent of the total number of searches in the member states. The Danish police has also had success in, among other things, solving cases by working closely with officers from the Eastern European EU members.
 
Organised crime has many hubs in the EU and it takes place both within and outside its borders, making the need for knowledge sharing and operational cooperation essential in combating the problem. If Denmark ends up being excluded from Europol, it will be much harder for the Danish police to identify, charge and arrest foreign organised criminals.

Main conclusion
  • Danmark has the second lowest number of police officers per 100,000 citizens in the EU and represents only 0.6 percent of the EU member states’ collective police force.
  • Denmark has the second-highest number of break-ins per 100,000 citizens in the EU and an increasing proportion of offenders are organised criminals from Eastern Europe.
  • Maintaining Danish membership in the European police cooperation Europol is vital in combating organised crime.
  • Denmark’s exchange of information with Europol has doubled in just four years and Danish police carry out a fifth of all searches in the Europol Information System. The cooperation is essential in containing the rising number of burglaries and other forms of crime.
  • It will have serious implications for Denmark if it is forced to leave Europol as a result of its decision to opt-out of the EU field of justice and home affairs.

Think Tank EUROPA therefore recommends that a referendum should be held as early as autumn 2014 to abolish the opt-out clause. Read more in our paper on the Danish opt-out.

Read full memo on Europol exit and organized crime (in Danish)

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