New policing in Europe: anticipating risk and uncertainty in the assessment of organised crime

  • Tom Vander Beken


Police are only one of the institutions engaged in monitoring and managing risks and therefore have to communicate and exchange information with others. As a consequence, police structures, strategies and intelligence requirements have been profoundly influenced by this risk orientation and have developed into institutions with an insatiable demand for data on all sorts of activities and events. Prevention and multidisciplinary actions are key words in such a discourse. Policy-makers no longer focus on repressive aspects, but want to be informed about coming challenges and threats to anticipate, take appropriate preventive action and target their reactive response better. The (retrospective) crime situation is not considered of interest, but the possible risk or threat that a phenomenon poses to society. The question remains, however, if it is possible to know exactly what is relevant and understand what will or could happen with a view to developing (preventive) strategies.
In this paper two possible answers to these questions are discussed and applied to the case of the assessment of organised crime. First, the position and discourse of those who believe that it is possible to collect relevant data about all sorts of issues and use this to assess and manage contemporary security risks in an objective manner is analysed. This believer approach has led to the introduction of more technocratic and expert-based forms of risk calculation, generating quantitative estimates of the probabilities and impacts of crime events. Such analyses seek to make estimates of probabilities, using various conceptual models, known past cases and available historical data. There is, however, a second non-believer approach in which it is accepted that not everything can be known or predicted and that not all risks can be known or calculated.
How should or can police agencies think and respond to risks which contours can only vaguely be known? In this paper it is argued that the uncertainty approach has many merits but has seldom been developed consistently in the area of crime analysis and intelligence.


How to Cite
Vander Beken, T. (2017). New policing in Europe: anticipating risk and uncertainty in the assessment of organised crime. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (2), 231-238. Retrieved from