Transnational organized crime refers to those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence.
-- Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime
In July 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a letter describing transnational organized crime (TOC) as “a significant and growing threat to national and international security, with dire implications for public safety, public health, democratic institutions, and economic stability across the globe.” Not only are criminal networks expanding, he said, but they are also “diversifying their activities, resulting in the convergence of threats that were once distinct and today have explosive and destabilizing effects.”
The current national security strategy acknowledges that combating transnational criminal and trafficking networks requires a multidimensional approach to safeguard citizens, and several programs have already been established between the U.S. and countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and others to help put an end to illicit activity in international waters and airspace. In addition, the White House has established five priority actions in order to lessen the threat and impact of TOC domestically and abroad, which seek to:
- Enhance intelligence and information sharing;
- Protect the financial system and strategic markets against transnational organized crime;
- Strengthen interdiction, investigations, and prosecutions;
- Disrupt drug trafficking and its facilitation of other transnational threats; and
- Build international capacity, cooperation, and partnerships.
As we examine the expanding threats of organized crime around the world, many factors must be considered – including the fact that d ifferent communities have widely varying needs. In some cities, the narcotics issue is so powerful that it becomes a matter of national security; in other cities, gangs present the most danger; in still others, it may be cyber espionage or money laundering.
Yet no matter what the threat may be, one truth remains: access to digital resources has made it easier than ever before for perpetrators to coordinate and expand criminal networks across physical boundaries. Technological innovation and globalization have yielded countless positive results for society over the past 20 years, but transnational criminal organizations have also taken advantage of our increasingly interconnected world to expand their illegal enterprises.
To combat this, law enforcement agencies must use technology to leverage their own coordinated efforts and change the way that they communicate, both with each other and with citizens. They need intelligence solutions that can proactively identify potential threats and protect critical infrastructure. They need collaboration tools that can help link up case files between countries, agencies, and departments so that investigations are strengthened and no shred of evidence is disconnected. They need to work through mobile apps and devices that can help them stay secure and productive in the field. They need social networking tools that can help monitor criminal behavior and associations, as well as social platforms that can be a resource for the public to report crimes or ask questions.
Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) is one agency taking full advantage of such technology solutions by using big data tools to dramatically accelerate and improve the accuracy of its investigations into criminal cases, including human trafficking. By tapping into the power of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and Apache Hadoop software, the Thai DSI is now importing, analyzing and storing huge volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources, generating results that would have taken two years using the previous data gathering and analysis process in as little as 15 days.
Governments and citizens must work together to fight transnational organized crime, taking advantage of every possible tool to combat the threats that endanger our safety and our freedoms. Technology provides not only a way to strengthen our own resources, but to join nations together in this common goal. Together, we can build a global community that protects citizens around the world from the danger and exploitation of transnational organized crime.