NEWS

Low-risk, high-paying jobs

Trends in organized crime within the EU show, to a significant degree, a turn toward low-risk, high-profit activities. This is the basic factor that favored cooperation between gangs of different nationalities and the full use of modern technology. The main activities of organized crime are: * The drugs trade: In a break with the past, organized crime groups have become involved in the trafficking of every kind of drug. While before there were clear distinctions, with each group specializing in one drug, now drug-trafficking networks have started to take advantage of every kind of drug that is in demand on the market. Increased cooperation has been observed between groups of Albanians, Turks, Romanians, Bulgarians and Colombians. Demand for heroin seems to be stabilizing within the Union, but it is rising for synthetic drugs and cocaine. The aggressive marketing that dealers have gone in for, targeting ever younger age groups, even children, is a particularly worrying trend. Moreover, the drop in heroin imports from Afghanistan, due to measures restricting opium poppy production, is expected to bring to European markets America-bound heroin from the Far East, but also from plantations in Latin America, which appear to be growing. * Cigarette smuggling: Regarded as one of the most lucrative activities, cigarette smuggling reaps handsome profits for traffickers while demand for the product is constant and stays exceptionally high. Practically all organized crime groups within the EU engage in cigarette smuggling, not least because it is a low-risk activity, since the penalties for traffickers are low and usually only a section of the trafficking ring is hit, and not the trade itself. Contraband cigarettes reach the markets via complicated routes, while cigarettes produced in one country may, after a long journey, return to the country of origin via third countries and be sold to consumers. * People smuggling: This is considered to be a growing area of activity within organized crime. Illegal migration, due to stricter border controls, has been targeted by crime organizations, with smuggling rings undertaking to transport illegal migrants in return for steep fees. People smuggling has turned into a veritable scourge worldwide, with people treated by organized crime like any other good. High profits, together with the lenient sentences handed down to traffickers in many countries and the extended periods of poverty and instability suffered by many states neighboring the EU, are all factors that favor the continuation of this activity. * Forgery: Despite the customary use of this term in relation to counterfeit banknotes, this is just one activity by organized crime. Counterfeiting has extended to a whole series of other products that may include almost everything, from medicines to spare parts for airplanes. * Child pornography: Organized crime has yet to become heavily involved in this activity, with few groups engaged in a systematic manner. However, it is regarded as a growing field due to constantly increasing demand, while the possibility of disseminating the product via the Internet sharply reduces the dangers for traffickers.