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Customization required in tackling criminal families

Published: 22nd November 2021 Last updated: 22nd November 2021

The ultimate playbook for an effective approach to criminal families does not exist. Everything hinges on attention to situation, context and customization - with professionalism and resilience - in an unruly practice. The 'hard' approach of repression, disruption and repossession is still too little aligned with the 'soft' approach of prevention, assistance, training, social work and health care. This is the conclusion of researchers from EMMA - Experts in Media and Society, and Tilburg University in the book 'Intervening in criminal families'.

With insights from the work floor and from science, the book (in Dutch) aims to inspire all professionals who try to get to grips with these complex and persistent problems in and for municipalities. The book is about what Dutch municipalities do to tackle criminal families and break the intergenerational transmission of crime. The problem of organized crime in the Netherlands and its undermining effects cannot be viewed separately from the role that criminal families play in it. Hans Moors and Toine Spapens previously demonstrated this clearly in the book (in Dutch) 'Criminal Families in North Brabant - An exploration of generational effects in organized crime' (2017).

Members of criminal families are generally adept at evading the criminal repercussions of the crime they commit. They are equally capable of frustrating interventions of a preventive nature. These are closed groups, often creating a negative atmosphere of intimidation and dependency in their physical and social environment, but at the same time prefer to operate under the radar and keep authorities out, or benefit from them. However, a government that gets too close and disrupts illegal revenue models can count on considerable resistance. This was emphasized by virtually all the Dutch professionals, as well as by the Swedish and British colleagues with whom the researchers spoke.

Based on a systematic literature review, dozens of interviews and group discussions with professionals in the field, the researchers reached a firm and clear conclusion. Despite the broad focus on integrated cooperation and the creative use of criminal, civil and administrative law in recent years, there is a world to be won. The 'hard' approach of repression, disruption and repossession is still too little in keeping with the 'soft' approach of prevention, assistance, education, social work and health care. And we have only just begun to realize that in almost every approach, the immediate environment of criminal families should also be mobilized.

The roadmap for an effective approach to criminal families does not exist. Everything stands or falls with attention to the situation, context and customization - with professionalism and resilience - in an unruly practice. That is why the researchers want to use the insights from the work floor and from science in this book to inspire all professionals who try to get a grip on these complex and persistent problems in and for municipalities.

More information

From the researchers: Anne Boer, senior researcher EMMA – Experts in Media en Maatschappij: boer@emma.nl, mob. 06-51383203; Toine Spapens, professor of criminology Tilburg Law School.

From Politie en Wetenschap (Police and Society): Annemieke Venderbosch, Director Programma Politie & Wetenschap: mob. 06-13216168.

Publication: ‘Interveniëren in criminele families’ (Intervention in criminal families)

By: Anne Boer, Rik Ceulen, Hans Moors, Toine Spapens. Politiewetenschap 94A, Politie en Wetenschap, Den Haag; Sdu Uitgevers, Den Haag 2020. For pdf download or e-book (in Dutch): see www.politieenwetenschap.nl and www.emma.nl.