Knowledge is a key element in devising responses to policy problems. In the field of criminal justice policy an obvious problem is the natural desire of the perpetrators of crimes to conceal their activities. This problem of activity identification is compounded in the UK, in the case of organised crime, by the fact that there is no separate organised crime offence category. Therefore organised crime appears neither in recorded crime statistics nor in statistics on convictions. This chapter focuses on the problems of knowledge acquisition, at the official level, on organised crime in the period from 1996-2002. It draws upon hitherto unpublished Home Office sources and locates the raw data gathering process within the context of national, global and regional (EU) crime control agendas. The chapter addresses the topic by examining the general issues related to crime data collection, the origins of the UK's Organised Crime Notification Scheme (OCNS), the method selected for OCNS data collection, the quantitative and qualitative problems encountered in the management of the OCNS and the problems of evaluating the collected data.
Organised crime is a good example of a high profile political issue, whose existence as a policy problem area has been asserted by political leaders and law enforcement practitioners before the collection of comprehensive, reliable and comparable data. Moreover, once on the political agenda, there tends to be a need to produce policy responses notwithstanding the inadequacies of the data on the problem area. For example, both the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) and the National Crime Squad (NCS) were established prior to the existence of the UK's first comprehensive organised crime data collection in 1999. It is also a
* The author is grateful to the Home Office Policing and Reducing Crime Unit for permission to use materials from his Year 2000 Review of the OCN Scheme. He alone is responsible for the interpretations and commentary contained in this chapter. The author also wishes to acknowledge the research support provided by the ESRC under Award No. L213252013 (with Rawlinson and Brooke) for 'Crime, Borders and Law Enforcement: a European "Dialogue" for improving security', a project in the ESRC's One Europe or Several? programme.