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Separate worlds in public and private crime prevention

16 November 2022
Private parties, such as private investigators, have an important role in combating internal financial and economic crime within organisations. There is only limited public-private cooperation in this respect. This is the conclusion of research by criminologists Clarissa Meerts, Wim Huisman and Edward Kleemans of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, commissioned by the Police and Science Research Programme.

Operational ad-hoc contact between the police and private investigators, for example, is more common than long-term and structural cooperation. This is a special form of 'living apart together' of public and private actors: these are often separate worlds and public-private contact often remains at the level of information transfer. If there is cooperation, there is no question of an equal partnership and the criminal justice system largely determines the role relationships.

Contact only with specific case
Internal financial and economic crime at companies is not only investigated within a criminal law framework, but also regularly through (professional) private investigations by internal investigation or security departments of large organizations, private investigation agencies, forensic accountants and investigative lawyers . The VU criminologists conclude that public-private contacts (even without cooperation) can be valuable, but that there are still some challenges in practice. As this research shows, public-private contact does not necessarily have to take the form of a structural collaboration in order to be perceived as valuable by those involved, nor is far-reaching collaboration seen as a necessary step. A too narrow focus on structural forms of cooperation misses out on these alternative forms of meaningful public-private contact.

In practice, the (non) use of the legally regulated options for information exchange leads to frustration among both private investigators and the police and prosecution office. Although they are limited in their investigative methods, private researchers often manage to retrieve a great deal of information. The police and prosecution office are generally not aware of any measures taken by companies, for example if no report is made. The legal context within which cooperation takes place imposes restrictions (such as how much information can be shared, what information can be shared, to what extent tasks can be divided between public and private actors), but there are some options for sharing information from the criminal justice system towards private actors. However, this cooperation and information exchange only takes place to a limited extent. Information mainly flows from the private sector to the criminal justice system and much less the other way around.

Cooperation in internal financial and economic crime
The VU criminologists provide insight into the operational cooperation or information transfer between the police and private investigators in the field of internal financial and economic crime. They investigated the legal context in which the collaboration takes place, with attention to the factors that promote and hinder the collaboration. They conducted semi-structured interviews with thirty respondents and analyzed seven completed criminal investigations into internal financial and economic crime, which also included a private investigation.

You can download the paper and magazine here.

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