Organizing against crime
By Brieanna Charlebois
While most crime rates have dropped over the past year, organized crime and fraud thrived. This begs the question: Why? Most experts point to two main theme two main themes – disparity and desperation – and as we now know, the pandemic amplified both. Unemployment rates peaked and inequality among Canada’s most vulnerable communities became more pronounced. What resulted were new avenues for criminals to capitalize and flourish.
While the pandemic may have changed the way crime syndicates operate, they quickly adapted to the “new normal”, using the online shift to their advantage. As aptly stated on the federal government website, “organized crime affects Canadians’ basic rights to peace, order and good government. Although the effects of illicit activities are not always obvious, all Canadians, through one form or another, feel them through victimization, higher insurance rates, fewer tax dollars to support social programs and the eventual undermining of Canadian institutions and consumers.” In effect, no community is immune to the effects and consequences of organized crime. This is showcased in this month’s cover story, “Betting on Crime.”
For years, gambling, specifically online gambling, has been one of the fastest growing spaces for organized crime. Though this is not a new phenomenon—technology has been used for organized crime operations since the onset of the technological age—it is becoming more prevalent in Canada each year. Covid has led to increased online activity, including gambling, ultimately creating a rich, new environment for organized crime operations.
“Unemployment rates peaked and inequality among Canada’s most vulnerable communities became more pronounced, resulting in new avenues for online crime, fraud and organized crime to capitalize and flourish.”
Fraud rates have also been steadily increasing in recent years, even more so since the pandemic began. The latest national data on fraud-related crimes showed the rate of police-reported fraud increased for the eighth year in a row, up 10 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018 and 64 per cent higher than a decade ago. While this data predates the onset of Covid, identifying this trend, Statistics Canada is conducting a special data collection to address information gaps. Researchers are focusing on data from March to December from a select number of police services.
The good news is, in the face of these troubling statistics, Canada’s law enforcement officers are on the job, working hard to combat the growing issues. Several successful operations have recently been made public and, in this issue, we take a look at their successes. This includes Operation Project Majestic, which led to the recovery of 73 stolen vehicles and Project Collecteur, an investigation into an international organized crime network that offered a money transfer service to drug exporting countries. Investigators with Project Collecteur earned the CACP Award of Excellence for Combatting Organized Crime for their efforts.
One of this month’s feature stories also profiles Project Switch, an investigation into taxi fraud in the Greater Toronto Area. Investigators for this operation were also recognized for their work, several earning Investigative Partnership of the Year awards for their investigative prowess and collaborate effort between four Divisions of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) as well as members of the Peel Regional Police and various financial companies.
As the “bad guys” adapt and pivot, so must law enforcement. Collaboration makes this easier. Most stories found within this edition showcase joint police work and how working together, especially through tough and trying times, yields the greatest success.