Evidence‐Based Prevention of Organized Crime: Assessing a New Collaborative Approach

AuthorMartijn Groenleer,Maurits Waardenburg,Herman Bolhaar,Jorrit de Jong
Published date01 March 2018
Date01 March 2018
Evidence-Based Prevention of Organized Crime: Assessing a New Collaborative Approach 315
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 2, pp. 315–317. © 2017 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12889.
Martijn Groenleer is professor of law
and governance in the Tilburg School of
Governance and director of the Tilburg
Center for Regional Law and Governance,
both at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.
His research focuses on the analysis and
design of regulation and governance in
multiactor and multilevel settings.
E-mail: m.l.p.groenleer@uvt.nl
Jorrit de Jong is lecturer in public policy
and management at Harvard University s
Kennedy School of Government. He is
faculty director of the Bloomberg Harvard
City Leadership Initiative and academic
director of the Innovations in Government
Program at the Kennedy School. His
research and teaching focus on leading
innovation in the public sector.
E-mail: jorrit_dejong@hks.harvard.edu
Herman Bolhaar is senior fellow in
the Ash Center for Democratic Governance
and Innovation at Harvard University s
Kennedy School of Government. He was
chair of the Board of Prosecutors-General,
the executive board of the Dutch Public
Prosecution Service, from 2011 to 2017.
As a practitioner, he initiated several
innovations in the fight against organized
crime. As a senior fellow, he focuses on
strengthening cross-sector collaboration in
crime prevention and repression.
E-mail: herman_bolhaar@hks.harvard.edu
This manuscript was originally submitted
and accepted as an
Evidence in Public
article. The feature editors,
Kimberley R. Isett, Brian W. Head, and Gary
VanLandingham, are gratefully acknowledged
for their work in soliciting and developing
this content. Effective with Volume 78, the
Evidence in Public Administration feature has
been discontinued.
Maurits Waardenburg is a PhD
candidate in the Tilburg Center for Regional
Law and Governance, Tilburg University. He
is also a research fellow in the Ash Center
for Democratic Governance and Innovation
at Harvard University s Kennedy School
of Government. His research focuses on
performance management in collaborative
governance settings.
E-mail: m.j.s.waardenburg@uvt.nl
A fter the publication of the U.S. Department
of State s 2005 Trafficking in Persons report,
the Dutch Public Prosecution Service decided
to increase its efforts to fight human trafficking.
The report identified the Netherlands as complying
with “the minimum standards for the elimination
of trafficking” but made it clear that the country
could do more, especially for the 25,000 commercial
sex workers in the country, of whom an estimated
50 percent to 80 percent were trafficking victims.
The results of the report prompted a question at the
Prosecutor s Office: why had its efforts to tackle the
human trafficking problem been so ineffective?
In response to this question, in 2006, the Dutch
Public Prosecution Service embarked on a journey
to find better ways to fight human trafficking. It
developed and implemented an unorthodox approach
focused on erecting barriers for all “facilitators” of
sexual exploitation and forced labor, such as hotels,
landlords, tax attorneys, and physicians, that might
knowingly or unknowingly provide services to
traffickers. Through cumulative learning from a series
of high-profile cases—from Eastern European women
coerced into illegal hotel prostitution to Philippine
sailors exploited in inland shipping—a fundamental
challenge gradually revealed itself: how to measure the
effects of the new approach to fight human trafficking.
Challenges to Gauge Progress
Seven years after taking the first steps toward
implementing the new approach, the results were
ambiguous. Key stakeholders seemed to be more
aware of the human trafficking problem than before
the Public Prosecution Service stepped up its efforts,
with prosecutors often taking on responsibilities far
beyond their traditional prosecutorial role. Politicians,
policy makers, and the public at large had come to
realize that, although legalized prostitution and sexual
exploitation are different, they are usually connected,
and that other forms of modern slavery, such as
maltreatment of Philippine sailors, still occur in the
Besides clear improvements in public awareness,
the Public Prosecution Service struggled to gauge
its progress in the fight against human trafficking
overall. Recent data showed that human trafficking
in the Netherlands was better recognized and
reported with each passing year: the number of
reported victims increased from 716 to 1,222 per
year between 2007 and 2011 (Nationaal Rapporteur
2012 ). It remained unclear, however, whether the
increase was a result of more cases being reported
thanks to the awareness-raising efforts or whether
there had actually been a surge in human trafficking
In a similar vein, the number of prosecutions
remained constant: about 220 per year on average.
Did that mean that prosecutors had maintained the
same level of performance, despite the allocation
of considerable resources to prevention? Or was
this number disappointing in light of the higher
volume of reported victims? Of the reported cases,
perpetrators were indicted for trafficking about 70
percent of the time, and around 50 percent of the
cases brought before the court led to convictions.
Even if this was a satisfactory number, had this
been accomplished as a result of or despite the new
investigatory and prosecutorial practices focused on
Overall, thanks to the new approach, much had been
learned about the victims, perpetrators, and enablers
of human trafficking. Even more had been learned
about engaging public and private partners and about
the role of the news media. Prosecutors had acquired
new skills and developed a different mind-set in
dealing with a highly elusive problem. However, it had
become less clear how the performance of prosecutors,
increasingly engaged in preventive, collaborative
efforts, could be measured. And while public
perceptions of the problem of human trafficking
seemed to have changed, performance indicators for
police and prosecutors had not; they were typically
evaluated in terms of number of investigations
Evidence-Based Prevention of Organized Crime:
Assessing a New Collaborative Approach
Stephen E. Condrey,
Associate Editor
Maurits Waardenburg
Martijn Groenleer
Tilburg University
Jorrit de Jong
Herman Bolhaar
Harvard University

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