Risk assessment is used in many areas of life as a source of information for individual and societal protection. Examples include health risks, flood risks, and security risks. For organized crime, the most common type of risk assessments evaluates the seriousness of different types of illicit markets and organized criminal groups. These illicit markets include manufacturing and trafficking in illicit goods, illicit services as well as infiltration of governments and businesses by organized criminal groups.
Risk is mentioned specifically in article 15 of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants of the Organized Crime Convention where it states that: "Each State Party shall take measures to ensure that it provides or strengthens information programs to increase public awareness of the fact that the conduct set forth in article 6 of this Protocol is a criminal activity frequently perpetrated by organized criminal groups for profit and that it poses serious risks to the migrants concerned". The risks to migrants, like the risk of organized crime in general, must be clearly specified regarding the smuggling activity and the groups involved.
How can risk assessment contribute towards reducing organized crime?
A UN assessment of organized crime in West Africa characterized the problem in this way: "unless the flows of contraband are addressed, instability and lawlessness will persist … because the commodities involved respond to distinct sources of supply and demand". (UNODC, 2013) This statement summarizes the contribution that risk assessment can make toward reducing the risks and potential harms of organized crime.
An assessment of risk must also account for the harms caused. These harms include financial harm to legal businesses and the economy (through extortion and unpaid taxes on illicit goods and services), as well as physical harm (people exploited in the provision of illicit goods and services, and the victims of threats and coercion). Other harms created by organized crime include reducing public confidence in government, police, and the judiciary. Corrupt actors "hide their interests behind a corporate veil" and investigators face difficulties in trying to lift that veil. (The World Bank and UNODC, 2011) If organized crime is populated by constantly changing and adapting organized criminal groups that seek "to profit from illegal capitalism", there must be ways to identify and prevent these networks from forming. (Hobbs, 2013) It is the purpose of risk assessment to evaluate the risks of offending (both from the perspective of the groups involved and harmed, and the product markets targeted).