Does it matter at all what criminologists think crime looks like? Is there any relation between criminological theories as they develop in academic surroundings and the daily practice of those whose job it is to catch criminals? We criminologists like to think that the stuff we say and write has some relevance to the real world. When I first started to work as an academic in a law enforcement intelligence department back in 1993, the question that puzzled me most was whether my mostly theoretical knowledge would be of any use to the sceptical practitioners who would become my colleagues. 1 In a way, this 'reality test' to me was of more importance than the recognition I received from my peers at university. I had invested a lot in gaining what I thought was not only interesting, but also useful knowledge. Now I was longing for an appreciative remark, a pat on the back from a detective with a modest formal training but substantial 'street wisdom'.
The appreciation was there soon enough, although it was gained mostly by displaying research skills I picked up in journalism instead of university. My ability to locate information on companies, persons, laws and tools from open sources and odd contacts did earn me some reputation, but did it matter to anyone that I read a pile of books on criminology and organised crime? Not in day-to-day work perhaps, but it did prove useful when I was asked to help think out wider strategies of crime control. This chapter explores some of the possibilities and pitfalls when thinking about new ways to understand and deal with organised crime.