EU/France/Germany: France and Germany: take on "itinerant crime groups" through cross-border cooperation, personal data exchange, predictive policing

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The German and French delegations to the Council of the EU have proposed a set of conclusions on "property crimes committed in Europe by highly mobile organised crime groups," which they assert are "attributable to itinerant crime groups originating mainly from South-Eastern and Eastern Europe," who "belong to the field of organised crime or are considered one step away from organised crime." Despite the clear connection between the proposals and the possibility of ethnic profiling and discriminatory police action - "itinerant"=travellers=Roma - the draft conclusions make no reference to fundamental rights issues.

See: NOTE from: German and French delegtaions, 'Draft Council conclusions on organised domestic burglary' (12098/16, LIMITE, 12 September 2016, pdf)

The draft Conclusions were discussed at a joint 12 September meeting of the JHA Counsellors and the COSI Support Group, two secretive working parties of the Council of the EU (COSI is the Standing Commitee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security).

Amongst other things, they call for increased coordination between national and EU authorities; security funding sources for projects; enhanced use of EU databases and information exchange mechanisms; and sharing experiences of and improving "the new technology of predictive policing which delivers promising new results and contributes to a better use of resources."

The German and French delegations first signalled an official intention to increase efforts against "highly mobile organised criminal groups" in March this year, with a paper addressed to other national delegations in the Council that said: "Itinerant crime generates a sense of insecurity for European citizens that leads them to doubt the ability of EU law enforcement authorities to effectively tackle this scourge." [1]

That phrase - along with much of the March paper - has been copied-and-pasted into the proposed conclusions, which, if agreed, will provide legitimation for state action at national and EU level. While many would no doubt welcome the authorities giving greater attention to domestic burglaries, the origins of EU action on this topic, and the intended targets, give some cause for concern.

While France and Germany have recently taken up the cause of targeting "itinerant crime groups", the Belgian authorities were one of the first to raise the issue at EU level with some crude assertions:

"An itinerant criminal group is an association of offenders, which systematically commits burglaries in houses [and other offences and] whose members mainly originate from the former Eastern bloc countries or form a sedentary group of offenders in Belgium; which operates or is directed from abroad or from the big urban areas in Belgium; which commits a considerable number of offences in a large part of the territory and; sometimes exploits minors for committing thefts...

Sedentary criminals are understood to be nomads, originally from the former Yugoslavian Republic, Romania, France or Belgium. These nomads are actually people without a real homeland. In historic terms this population group came to Western Europe in large migration waves. They now have Belgian nationality, are seeking asylum or are illegal. Despite the fact that a large part is settling down, the break between being sedentary and being mobile is not radical and never final."

In short: target Roma

On the back of Belgium's efforts, Council conclusions were agreed in December 2010 on "the fight against crimes committed by mobile (itinerant) criminal groups", [3] and numerous projects and initiatives followed, [4] yet the German and French authorities argue that more needs to be done.

The draft conclusions invite "Member States and relevant EU agencies" to:

Further improve the strategic-political dialogue and operational coordination between the Member States and the bodies and relevant agencies of the European Union, in particular Europol and Eurojust in order to achieve consistency, alignment and the correct focus of national and international actions in the fight against organised domestic burglary...

"Make optimal use of resources and respect official channels for information exchange and thus to build operational, task-specific networks between the competent agencies and Member States based on existing multilateral structures for sharing information including Europol, Siena, Interpol and Eurojust and to involve existing expert groups...

Improve the exchange of experience on strategic issues and the awareness raising for the phenomenon of transnational organised crime by creating a European list of national contact points on domestic burglary, a dedicated Europol Platform for Experts forum (EPE) and making this part of the CEPOL programme...

Apply a more multidisciplinary approach to tackle this threat, which includes not only measures to improve law enforcement but also ideas for strengthening burglary prevention and which also includes taking administrative measures to supplement actions under criminal law..."

Member States are invited to:

"Build and capitalise on successful cross-border projects against organised domestic burglary and other forms of OPC, such as “Strengthening the fight against mobile organized crime groups of the Baltic Sea Region”, “Danube Property Crime” and Operation Decebalus on MOCG’ from the Western Black sea region as best practices to fight against organised property crimes and also to promote and to support existing ISF-projects such as “OP Paris”, “Domestic Burglary” and “Eurasian Region and Western Balkans Region Project”;

Intensify the cooperation with the countries of origin (Member States and third states) in order to effectively combat organised burglar gangs. Currently this means involving countries from South-Eastern and Eastern Europe more strongly in the EU crime priority "Organised Property Crime" and continue to build up relation with other non-EU countries;

Improve the exchange of information concerning mobile property crime offenders through a more intensive use of the Europol Information System (EIS) and Prüm information exchange tools;

Intensify the combat against organised property crimes in general and against domestic burglaries in particular on EU level by setting up a temporary support group of national experts/analysts located at Europol Focal Point Furtum;

Strengthen the cooperation of law enforcement agencies of the countries affected by MOCGs as well as the cooperation with Eurojust and to increase the number of Joint Investigation Teams with the aim to tackle the entire cross-boarder network of perpetrators...

Initiate information and awareness-raising programmes on burglary prevention in general and additionally on (individual) burglary protection measures (especially for victims of burglaries) at EU level, to pool preventive projects in cooperation with the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and also to intensify cooperation with the private sector to improve prevention;

Cooperate with the Informal Network on the Administrative Approach to set up projects to increase the expertise in Member States on the use of administrative measures to prevent these organised crime groups from infiltrating in the legal infrastructure, taking into account the conclusions and recommendations from the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme (ISEC) funded EU study ‘administrative measures to prevent and tackle crime’;

Share experience on and further improve the new technology of predictive policing which delivers promising new results and contributes to a better use of resources;

Apply and develop additional supportive measures to coercive sanctions, such as spreading best practices, when dealing with underage offenders in order to free them from the influence of the real criminals and to give them better prospects for the future;

Apply the above-mentioned measures not only for domestic burglaries but also for burglaries in commercial properties and other OPC phenomena that achieve a critical level in the Member States."

The Commission should:

"Support the Member States to ensure the effective implementation of the future EMPACT OPC OAP’s and support Member States cooperation between all relevant law enforcement and justice authorities; including by ensuring sufficient funding be made available through EMPACT funding and calls for ISF Union actions, taking into account the successful results achieved by past funded projects."

The "relevant EU agencies" are invited to:

"Enhance inter-agency cooperation focusing mainly on the synergy of activities of all agencies involved and on information exchange, in particular Europol and Eurojust;

Identify and analyse practical obstacles regarding law enforcement measures, prosecution and judicial cooperation with the aim and take active steps to improve the use of EU and international legal instruments (Eurojust, Europol)."


[1] NOTE from: German and French delegations, 'Draft European initiative to prevent and combat organised domestic burglary' (6876/16, LIMITE, 8 March 2016, pdf)
[2] Eric Töpfer, 'Targeting Roma: How the EU security apparatus is mobilised for the "fight against itinerant crime"', Statewatch News Online, March 2012
[3] Council conclusions on the fight against crimes committed by mobile (itinerant) criminal groups, December 2010 (pdf)
[4] For example, the Commission-funded 'Domestic Burglary' project (link).


Council of the European Union intervenes in the France-Roma controversy - proposing the targeting of "mobile (itinerant) criminal groups": "itinerant"=travellers=Roma (Statewatch database, October 2010)

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