Posted on 22 Jan 2021
In the fourth issue of the Risk Bulletin produced by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South Eastern Europe, we draw from ongoing studies which our research team are working on to investigate five unique trends in organized crime in the region:
1. Vranje, an emerging criminal hotspot.
Since 2019, the name of one city keeps popping up in media and police reports about drug trafficking and migrant smuggling: Vranje, in southern Serbia. We look at how and why Vranje has become a hotspot for organized crime.
2. Guns for gangs in Sweden: the Balkan connection.
The notorious Yugoslav mafia, the ‘Juggemaffian’, that dominated the organized crime landscape in Sweden in the 1990s is long gone, but Sweden continues to feel the impact of organized crime from the Western Balkans. A spate of deadly gang-related violence in the past few years is fuelled in part by guns and grenades from the Balkans.
3. Taking a gamble in North Macedonia.
While Albania and Kosovo have taken steps since 2019 to abolish gambling in their countries because of its links to organized crime, the number of electronic casinos and betting shops in North Macedonia has doubled. Gambling is potentially lucrative, but it brings with it risks associated with addiction, money laundering and the potential harm to historic tourist destinations such as Ohrid.
4. Islands of resilience: civil society organizations in the Western Balkans.
These are hard times for civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Western Balkans. In many places, CSOs dealing with organized crime and corruption are under pressure from governments and threatened by people involved in corrupt or illicit activity. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult for CSOs to have face-to-face contact with many of the individuals and groups that they normally work with, like women, youth, former prisoners or addicts. We explore some of the challenges and opportunities for strengthening resilience to organized crime and corruption in the Western Balkans, based on a cross-regional workshop held in mid-December 2020 and the findings of a forthcoming Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) report.
5. Neostart, a place for a second chance.
There are about 12 000 prisoners in Serbia; around 8 000 of them are released from prison each year. Yet the rate of recidivism is between 60% and 75%, meaning that many will end up back in prison. Neostart, a centre for crime prevention and post-penal assistance, is a non-governmental organization in Serbia that is reducing recidivism by helping former offenders reintegrate into society. We talk to its director, Darjan Vulevic, about their work and challenges and successes.