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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Measurements & testing projects > European research and the fight against crime
Graphic element European research and the fight against crime

Crime has a significant negative impact on the sense of security and the overall quality of life of European citizens. The cost of insurance, security measures to prevent crime, as well as the costs of detection, investigation and prosecution of serious crimes are a burden to national budgets, which can be reduced through the application of state-of-the-art measurement and testing techniques.

The European Council is deeply committed the fight against all forms of serious, organised and transnational crime. The importance of freedom, security and justice spelled out in the Treaty of Amsterdam presupposes an efficient and comprehensive approach to this question. A balanced development of union wide measures is therefore necessary to protecting the freedom and legal rights of individuals and businesses.

On 15-16 October 1999, The European Council meeting in Tampere , Finland concluded that there was a need to strengthen the network of the national authorities responsible for crime prevention. This led to the Council of the European Union's decision on 28 May 2001 to set up the European Crime Prevention Network. This is a new step in the European crime prevention strategy agreed at the Council meeting in March 2001, a policy aimed at taking a coherent approach towards crime, an issue of major concern to European citizens.

The European Network held its first meeting of national representatives on 25 and 26 June 2001 in Stockholm. Made up of contact points designated by each of the Member States, this network aims to facilitate co-operation, contacts and exchanges of information in the field of crime prevention. It will also contribute to better knowledge of crime and of the effectiveness of preventive policies and will develop new ways of preventing crime at European union level.

Meanwhile, the Work Programme for RTD actions in support of Competitive and Sustainable Growth under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) (1998-2002) already highlights fraud and crime detection and prevention as one of a number of overriding socio-economic objectives for measurements and testing (M&T) research. To this end, a variety of projects are being or have been carried out.

The 4IPR project - cracking down on piracy

Piracy is a crime that knows no boundaries, becoming easier to organise and perpetuate every day via the internet. Losses due to product piracy and brand diversion now account for an estimated 6-7% of world trade, representing annual revenue losses within the EU alone of up to Euro1 billion, much of that stemming from organised crime activities. Add losses through retail theft and tampering and these figures rise even more dramatically.

On 30 November 2000 the European Commission adopted a Communication announcing a series of practical measures intended to step up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy in the Single Market. As part of these measures, the Commission will put forward a proposal for a Directive strengthening and harmonising the legislation of Member States concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights. A study is also being commissioned by the EC to define a methodology for collecting, analysing and comparing data on counterfeiting and piracy, while recommendations are being made for making better use of existing information systems and for strengthening co-operation and the exchange of information between private and public authorities.

"The main concern when talking about product counterfeiting is probably public safety," explains Jeremy Plimmer of Worldwide Security Exchange Limited in the UK. "Pirated parts on cars and in electronic goods can pose a real danger to citizens. Then there is the pharmaceuticals market. We are seeing products coming in which are simply not manufactured up to the to standards one would expect from a reputable brand, and this can be very dangerous, not to mention the money lost in terms of employment and tax revenues."

Plimmer is part of a new EC-funded project called 4IPR (For intellectual property rights), aimed at identifying information and technology resources concerned with anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property abuse. The intention is to provide secure sharing of information between all of the various players in the counterfeiting and brand abuse chain. 4IPR will make information available via a multi-level secure network, including a range of resources and information concerning:

  • Legal texts and decisions;
  • Technology solutions and providers;
  • Seizures and prosecutions;
  • The dangers of counterfeiting to health and safety;
  • Brand, trademark and patents;
  • Research projects, conferences, publications and training;
  • Key organisations and associations;
  • Enforcement agencies.

Six sectors will be the primary beneficiaries of the results of this project, with users able to access some or all of the available data depending on their agreed security clearance:

  • Enforcement agencies - police, customs and trading standards officials, and private detection and investigation agencies;
  • The legal community - EC and national legal authorities, patent attorneys, trade mark and grand owner lawyers and the judiciary;
  • Governments - EC departments, committees and legislators, EC project participants, national governments, ministerial departments and committees;
  • Rights owners - rights holders, intellectual property owners and owners of related data bases;
  • Suppliers - technology suppliers, research associations, publishers, conference and exhibition organisers, security associations, education and university resources;
  • Consumers - media trade associations, consumer groups.

"This is a very ambitious project," says Plimmer. "and it is extremely important that we work together at the European level. With our open borders and with the various national authorities taking different views on the seriousness of product counterfeiting, pirated goods can flow from one area to another unchecked. We need this kind of central information resource to help us in combating such a problem."

Explosives trace analysis ETA

Following a bomb blast of criminal or terrorist origin, identification of the explosive used can be highly valuable to investigative authorities. In most cases, traces of unreacted explosive remain on nearby surfaces or on projected fragments. These traces can be recovered, isolated and identified by modern chemical techniques, even when present in amounts measured in nanograms (10-9 grams). The identity of the explosive may be compared with explosives discovered in the possession of suspects and any links between them may be given as evidence at trial. Because certain terrorist groups tend to favour particular types of explosives, the identity of the explosive is key for investigative authorities at an early stage.

On 28 and 29 April 1999, an EU-funded workshop entitled "Workshop on explosives trace analysis methods" was held at the DERA Forensic Explosives Laboratory in Kent. Co-ordinated by DERA's Dr Robin Hiley, it brought together 23 delegates representing forensic establishments from eight European countries. The meeting was aimed at:

  • summarising the strengths and weaknesses of methods employed for trace explosives analysis and comparing methodology and experiences of the represented laboratories;
  • considering research needs, including the development of new methods and requirements for reference materials;
  • identifying possible areas of research to be tackled under the FP5;
  • producing proceedings to be published in a reputable forensic journal (Science and Justice, Oct-Dec 199).
Eurodetector - forged banknote detector

With the imminent appearance of the euro on I January 2002, seven new banknotes and eight new coins are about to become part of everyday life for the citizens of the 12 countries of the euro area. A recent report by Europol , the Union's police co-ordination office warns that the introduction of the euro could unleash an unprecedented crime wave as criminals take advantage of the abundance of cash and confusion likely to be created by the currency changeover. In 1999 and 2000, law enforcement agencies in the European Union seized more than 2 125 000 counterfeit notes with a total value of about Euro32 million. This figure is likely to rise significantly as the euro becomes the second most used currency in the world.

Counterfeiting has certain characteristics that make it different from other crimes. With new computer technologies and modern reproduction methods allowing us to make high-quality copies of almost any printed material, virtually any individual can potentially counterfeit banknotes from the comfort of his or her own home. A young student, for instance, proficient with computers, could start out by printing a few notes for a laugh and then easily move on to producing false notes for financial gain.

Although nothing can stop a determined counterfeiter from trying, a number of special security features have been incorporated into the design of the new euro, including special tactile properties, a distinctive watermark, a security thread, a foil hologram, and special inks. In addition, machine-readable features have been integrated into the banknotes, allowing cash handling machines to check each banknote's authenticity without human intervention, but for any of these measures to be effective, banknotes must be examined upon receipt.

The EURODETECTOR project is aimed at providing users with a foolproof system for detecting false euro banknotes. Partners are developing a new range of mechanisms, including manual, motorised, and high-cadence devices with integrated automation to eliminate the need for human judgement. The new system will be capable of carrying out counterfeiting detection simultaneously with counting and valorisation operations and will be reasonably priced for affordability for retailers as well as larger financial institutions.

"European-level co-operation is very important to this project," says Jean-Paul Vacandare of France's CTMS (Contrôle et Traitement des Monnaies Sécurité) . "Together with our partners we've been able to come up with and test new and different ideas, and the ability to produce this device on a large scale will mean we can keep the price low."

FEARID - criminal identification through ear prints

The recognition of body trace evidence by law enforcement authorities in the identification of criminals, e.g. fingerprinting and DNA profiling, is variable across Europe. Ear print evidence has not been exploited as widely as other forms of trace evidence and the interests of all concerned would be well served both by the dissemination of best practice and the improvement of the reliability of evidence gathering.

"The ear is a flexible, three-dimensional object, which can change when pressure is applied," explains project leader Cornelis van der Lugt of the Institute for Criminal Investigation and Crime Science (ICR) in the Netherlands. "This represents a particular research challenge for project participants. Existing technologies need to be adapted and new technologies need to be explored. From a forensic anthropological point of view, a classification of diagnostic cues will be established for the matching of ear print minutiae. An electronic image processing system will be developed for image acquisition, pre-processing, segmentation and numeric feature extraction and storing. On pattern recognition, we are aiming to create statistical classifications, models and effective matching and search strategies."

The FEARID project represents an important step forward in the harmonisation of standards for collection and interpretation of ear prints, including providing databases and appropriate new support tools for individual ear print recognition.

The 4IPR project - cracking down on piracy
Explosives trace analysis ETA
Eurodetector - forged banknote detector
FEARID - criminal identification through ear prints

Key data

Much of the research carried out in the EU's fight against crime is supported under the Growth Programme's Measurements and testing generic activity.


4IPR - For intellectual property rights;
ETA - Explosives trace analysis workshop;
EURODETECTOR - Design of a new forged banknote detector using magneto resistant sensor for testing of the new European currency: Euro;
FEARID - Forensic ear identification


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