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RUSI’s Organised Crime and Policing research group is dedicated to understanding and addressing current and future organised crime and policing challenges, in the UK and globally.

The Organised Crime and Policing group provides research, analysis, consultancy and evaluation services for governments, law enforcement agencies, international institutions and the private sector. It covers a number of research areas, including organised crime, policing, intelligence, technology and surveillance. A core focus is that of facilitating dialogue between stakeholder communities, synthesising existing research evidence to inform high-level decision-making, and bridging gaps between siloed responses, to inform a more holistic, effective and forward-looking response.

Across the UK and globally, the damaging impact of organised crime is felt by individuals, communities, and the public and private sectors. Yet the national and global response has failed to keep pace with the evolving, technologically enabled threat. The rapidly changing environment has placed the public and private sector under unprecedented pressure to both comprehensively understand these complex and changeable issues, and respond in real time to the threat to national security. In this context, our research explores the scale and nature of the shifting threat from organised crime, the harm it causes, and how best to respond – exploring innovative responses across sectors.

In parallel, the group’s policing and security research explores the challenges facing law enforcement agencies in the 21st century, and the role of the police in the UK’s national security infrastructure. The police are integral to the UK’s national security and prosperity. Operating in times of uncertainty, they are required to continually adapt to keep pace with the changing nature of global crime and security threats. Working closely with policymakers and practitioners across UK law enforcement, RUSI conducts timely evidence-based research, to advise law enforcement agencies on how best to take advantage of new opportunities such as those presented by emerging technologies, how to bridge the gap between policy and practice, and overcome barriers to transformational change. Our research takes a practitioner-led approach, assisting government and law enforcement agencies to develop policy and strategy.


The Organised Crime and Policing research group aims to:

  • Conduct world class research and analysis, in the UK and internationally, with evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders
  • Contribute to policy discussions in the UK and internationally and disseminate global best practice
  • Promote public understanding and cross-sectoral dialogue by hosting conferences, workshops and breakfast meetings (both on- and off-the-record)
  • Help prioritise key research questions for government and academic community
  • Support greater collaboration between public, private and third sectors and encourage interdisciplinary research.


RUSI as a Global Hub for Discussion on Organised Crime

  • Since 2015, the Organised Crime and Policing research group has run the Strategic Hub for Organised Crime Research (SHOC) – a world-class research and convening network bringing together academics, practitioners, policy-makers and the private sector to facilitate policy-relevant research on organised crime. Launched by Lynne Owens, Director-General of the UK National Crime Agency, SHOC has brought together policymakers, practitioners and academics to discuss the challenges posed by organised crime and formulate evidence-based strategies to combat these threats.
  • SHOC publishes a weekly blog, The Informer, and has hosted over 20 public and closed-door workshops, roundtables and conferences to date on a wide variety of topics, including: Brexit and the future of UK–EU police cooperation; cyber crime; digital policing and data analytics; the organised crime–terrorism nexus; the mafia outside of Italy; and how to measure the scale of money laundering in the UK. 

Drug Trafficking and Maritime Security

  • Since 2014, RUSI has managed the Cocaine Route Monitoring and Support (CORMS) project on behalf of the European Commission. Coordinated from RUSI's Brussels offices, the project aims to increase the coherence of EU actions under the Cocaine Route Programme (CRP) and the EU Action against Drugs and Organised Crime (EU-ACT), covering Latin America, the Caribbean, West and East Africa, and Central and South Asia. 
  • Since 2017, RUSI has managed the Critical Maritime Routes Monitoring, Support and Evaluation Mechanism (CRIMSON) on behalf of the European Commission. Also coordinated from RUSI's Brussels offices, this project aims to increase the coherence of EU actions under the Critical Maritime Routes Programme (CMR), which builds capacity and information-sharing capabilities among EU maritime security actors in West and East Africa.
  • CORMS and CRIMSON provide ongoing recommendations to the European Commission and project partners to inform future EU-funded programming related to drug trafficking and maritime security.   

Environmental Crime

  • RUSI’s dedicated environmental crime programme was established in 2014. Since then, RUSI has undertaken a wide range of cutting-edge global research activities, led by a team of experts in environmental security, wildlife crime, illegal fishing, associated corruption and illicit financial flows.
  • In 2014–15, RUSI led pioneering research into the role of armed non-state actors in wildlife trafficking in the Horn of Africa. Cross-disciplinary empirical data was compiled and cross-referenced, a comprehensive mapping exercise conducted, and extensive fieldwork executed, resulting in the widely cited paper An Illusion of Complicity: Terrorism and the Illegal Ivory Trade in East Africa
  • In 2018, RUSI was part of the team that established the IWT Financial Taskforce. In October 2018, HRH the Duke of Cambridge signed a public declaration alongside other members of the taskforce (including Standard Chartered, HSBC, RBS, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan) committing these institutions to identify specific actions that the financial sector can take to disrupt the trade. 
  • Since 2017, RUSI has run cutting-edge UK government-funded projects on ‘Disrupting Wildlife-Linked Illicit Financial Flows in East and Southern Africa’. Pioneering a new approach based on a strategic threat- and-needs assessment and production of tailored rapid reference guides, bespoke ‘follow the money’ capacity building has been delivered to 308 delegates from 52 government agencies and 74 financial institutions in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

Policing and Security

  • RUSI is at the forefront of government policy development relating to the police’s use of technology. In 2017, RUSI published a major study on the use of technology and data in UK police forces, which showed that forces are not exploiting the data available to them, and identified opportunities to increase police efficiency and effectiveness.
  • In 2018, RUSI published a report exploring the legal and regulatory framework governing the use of machine learning algorithms for police decision-making. The report made a number of policy recommendations for future regulation and ethical use of machine learning for policing.
  • RUSI is currently conducting a research and policy development project in partnership with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, a government advisory body established to investigate and advise on how government can maximise the benefits of data-enabled technologies and artificial intelligence. The Centre has commissioned RUSI to undertake an independent study to inform the development of a Code of Practice for the design, development and trialling of data analytics technology for policing.
  • RUSI brought together senior policy-makers and practitioners from across the UK Intelligence Community to discuss critical issues relating to the use of new technologies for surveillance purposes.
  • In 2018, RUSI conducted a research study into the personal security of individuals in British public life. Engaging closely with practitioners and policy-makers, the project sought to develop a typology of threats faced by individuals in British public life, the range of perpetrators, and official responses to these threats.


Illicit Trade

  • Between 2016 and 2018, RUSI’s On TAP programme explored the scale, methods and routes of the organised criminal networks involved in the illicit trade in tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals across Europe. Individual reports focused on the situation in the UK, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.
  • Since 2017, RUSI has provided qualitative data to support the quantitative findings of Project SUN, a comprehensive analysis of the scope and scale of the illicit cigarette market in Europe. Last year, RUSI also conducted a study on the exploitation of the internet and delivery services in relation to illicit tobacco and tobacco products.

Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

  • Since 2017, RUSI has conducted research on the dynamics of human trafficking in Sudan, mapping its causalities and providing programmatic and policy recommendations for the UK government and international stakeholders.


Cathy Haenlein
Director, Organised Crime and Policing +44 (0) 20 7747 4975

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