A decline of traditional hierarchical criminal groups and networks will be accompanied by the expansion of a virtual criminal underground made up of individual criminal entrepreneurs, who come together on a project basis.
These people will lend their knowledge, experience and expertise as part of a 'crime-as-a-service' business model. Such dynamics can already be seen in the realm of cybercrime, but in the future these will extend to the domain of 'traditional' organised crime, governing crime areas such as drugs trafficking, illegal immigration facilitation and counterfeiting of goods.
These are the main trends detailed in Europol's newly-released report 'Exploring tomorrow's organised crime', which identifies a series of key driving factors that will impact the future landscape of serious and organised crime in Europe. The report also looks at how law enforcement authorities might counter and contain organised crime activities over the coming years.
"Organised crime is dynamic and adaptable and law enforcement authorities across the EU are challenged to keep pace with the changing nature of this substantial and significant threat. This report - the first of its kind for Europol - will enable us to look ahead and better allocate resources, plan operational activities and engage with policy- and law-makers to prevent certain types of crimes from emerging" says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The report is the outcome of Europol experts' engagement with other experts from the private and public sectors, academia and partners in the European law enforcement community.
Key drivers for future change
Innovation in transportation and logistics will enable organised crime groups to increasingly commit crime anonymously over the Internet, anywhere and anytime, without being physically present.
Nanotechnology and robotics will open up new markets for organised crime and deliver new tools for sophisticated criminal schemes.
The increasing exploitation of Big Data and personal data will enable criminal groups to carry out complex and sophisticated identity frauds on previously unprecedented levels.
E-waste is emerging as a key illicit commodity for organised crime groups operating in Europe.
Economic disparity across Europe is making organised crime more socially acceptable as organised crime groups will increasingly infiltrate economically weakened communities, portraying themselves as providers of work and services.
Organised crime groups will increasingly attempt to infiltrate industries that depend on natural resources, to act as brokers or agents in the trade.
Virtual currencies increasingly enable individuals to act as freelance criminal entrepreneurs operating on a crime-as-a-service business model without the need for a sophisticated criminal infrastructure to receive and launder money.
Organised criminal groups will increasingly target, but also provide illicit services and goods to, a growing population of elderly people exploiting new markets and opportunities.