12 Feb 2018

New hope in South Africa's fight against organised crime

The Organised Crime Threat Assessment system signals a new phase of intelligence-led responses.

In its ongoing effort to address the complex threat of transnational organised crime in South Africa, the government has looked to programmes and experiences that have achieved successes elsewhere.

This has seen the recent introduction by the South African Police Service (SAPS) of the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) mechanism, which has been used successfully to combat organised crime in Europe, Australia and North America. The system brings cause for optimism for South Africa’s fight against organised crime.

Simply put, OCTA is based on a report, issued periodically, which provides analysis on the threat of organised crime. This offers a robust framework for the extensive and proactive use of intelligence as a basis for developing policies, strategies, action plans and anti-organised crime operations. It further allows for the routine analysis and assessment of changing threats, policy gaps and operational flaws. As a result, law enforcement agencies are able to undertake interventions that are more timely and effective.

The OCTA system has been used to curb organised crime in Europe, Australia and elsewhere

The OCTA system rests heavily on intelligence-led policing and international cooperation: not only as a tool for denying safe havens to criminal groups, but also as a platform that promotes complementarity of state action and capacity to investigate, disrupt, prosecute and punish perpetrators. It also requires a clampdown on corrupt law enforcement officers and all those who facilitate, support or participate as accomplice in organised crime.

The OCTA system was developed and first implemented by the European Union (EU) Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) more than a decade ago.

Indeed, since 2006, the systematic application of OCTA has revolutionised how law enforcement agencies in Europe respond to organised crime, with EUROPOL at the centre of the revolution.

Already, the OCTA mechanism has led to some breakthroughs by the SAPS. Early in February, policing through the OCTA system reportedly led to the arrests of nine suspects believed to belong to a VAT-scam syndicate.

Already, the OCTA mechanism has led to some breakthroughs by the SAPS

‘This is about tracking and dealing a blow to the source of crime – the kingpins, crime financiers and planners. These are the people who drive luxury cars and behave as though they are ordinary, hard-working people. Their crimes are massive and through their criminality, hundreds of other crimes get committed,’ said South African Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula. Through its robust intelligence collection and analysis, OCTA provides a better understanding of the sources of crimes and their modus operandi in South Africa.

It is hoped that the OCTA system will see an increase in intelligence-led operations and more arrests in South Africa. For the system to be more efficient in South Africa, it would require increased law enforcement capacity and early-response readiness, as well as enhanced cooperation with neighbouring countries.

Martin Ewi, Technical Coordinator/Southern African ROCO

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ENACT is funded by the European Union
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ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies in partnership with
INTERPOL and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.