[Issues in Transnational Policing]

Article excerpt

Edited by J.W.E. Sheptycki

London: Routledge, 2000, xiii, 241pp, US$16.99 paper, ISBN 0-415-19261-7

The transnational character of much contemporary criminal activity (particularly organized criminal activity) has yet to be given satisfactory academic treatment in conceptual terms. Mainstream criminology, especially in North America, has long been taken with topics of local, regional, and occasionally national scope. For their part, students of international relations - schooled for decades to employ multiple levels of analysis and to appreciate transnational phenomena - have done rather better. However, when international relations scholars approach the subject of criminality, they typically do so by casting crime exclusively as a national security issue and have occasionally been guilty of offering somewhat overblown descriptions of 'global mafias' forging strategic alliances that 'threaten' nation states.

Certainly crime in some instances presents a degree of threat worthy of the attention of the national security apparatus. But it would be a mistake to focus on the sensational and miss the larger problematic posed by transnational criminal behaviour (and attempts to combat it) - namely, questions of governance, sovereignty, and human rights raised by bilateral and multilateral co-operative law enforcement practices, or 'high policing.' This is the starting point for the essays in Issues in Transnational Policing, which is a welcome contribution to the very thin literature on transnational crime per se.

The theme of many of the contributions is the extent to which sovereignty is being sacrificed to crime control measures. Realists argue that powerful states rarely expose themselves unnecessarily to international legal provisions, but is that true when the focus of such provisions is individual (criminal) citizens rather than states? Although the burgeoning international network of crime control treaties, legal harmonization, information sharing, and police liaison operations would seem to compromise the ability of criminals to hide behind national boundaries, the glass is at least half full for believers in the durability of the nation state. …