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Organized crime prioritization for the NZ Police

Organized crime prioritization for the NZ Police

‘Organized crime’ is the generic name for criminal groups like gangs or syndicates that exist for the purpose of making money from illegal activities – e.g. trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans and counterfeit goods, as well as money laundering and financial crime.

Law enforcement agencies – primarily the police but also other governmental organizations (e.g. the US Federal Bureau of Investigation) – are constrained in their crime-fighting efforts by the limited resources they have available. And so, inevitably, it is necessary to prioritize organized crime offenders for investigation.

1000minds was used by the New Zealand Police to create a prioritization tool for ranking organized crime offenders in terms of their investigative priority.

6 criteria for prioritizing organized crime

60+ expert participants

10 high-risk offenders used for testing the tool

The goal of the New Zealand Police is for New Zealand to be the safest country in the world.

Pursuit of this goal requires that the Police’s limited resources are used efficiently. Development of a valid and reliable tool for prioritizing organized crime offenders for investigation is a useful contribution.


Formed in 1886, the New Zealand Police is the country’s national police service.

With a total staff (sworn and unsworn) of more than 13,000 people, the organization has primary responsibility for policing, traffic enforcement, the protection of dignitaries, firearms licensing, as well as matters of national security.

Within the Police, the National Organised Crime Group is focused on reducing the harm caused by organized crime, both within New Zealand and internationally.

The challenge

A challenge: choosing which groups to investigate.

Organized crime in most countries, including New Zealand, is pervasive and increasingly sophisticated in how it operates. The successful investigation of a crime usually depends on the resources applied to it. Organized crime can be very resource and information intensive to investigate. Therefore, because Police resources are limited, organized crime offenders need to be prioritized.

But what are the criteria for prioritizing organized crime? And what is the relative importance of these criteria (i.e. given they are unlikely to be equally important)?

For example, how might the community harm caused by organized crime be weighted relative to the financial proceeds at stake, or the potential for corruption, etc?

The New Zealand Police needed a practical method for determining appropriate criteria and weights for prioritizing organized crime offenders for investigation.

The solution

Which of these two (hypothetical) incidents should be considered more urgent (and responded to sooner)?
Theft or damage to Property – already committed
Risk to Human Life - in immediate future (that can be affected by Police response)
Very high risk (almost certain)
Theft or damage to Property – already committed
Large amount
Risk to Human Life - in immediate future (that can be affected by Police response)
No risk
This one
This one
They are equal

Key people involved in the investigation of organized crime in NZ came together for a day-long workshop. Before the workshop, they were asked via a 1000minds ranking survey, or “noise audit”, to use their intuition to rank 12 hypothetical offender profiles in terms of investigative priority.

In the workshop, the rankings were compared and used to stimulate discussion that led to the identification of criteria that are relevant to NZ investigators when prioritizing organized crime offenders. 1000minds was then used to determine valid and reliable weights on the criteria, reflecting their relative importance.

Thus, a tool for prioritizing organized crime was created. The tool could be applied on an ongoing basis as new offenders emerged or the behavior of existing ones changed (affecting their priority).

1000minds’ group decision-making processes enabled the involvement of a large and diverse range of expert participants in terms of their relevant experience and expertise, thereby achieving consensus and greater buy-in overall.

The results

Results: an ordered list of who to investigate.

The most important criterion in the prioritization tool is community harm, followed by corruption or infiltration, geographical influence, convertible assets, capability and criminal influence.

The tool was tested on 10 known high-risk offenders. Senior staff involved in investigating these offenders agreed that the tool’s ranking of offenders matched their professional judgements.

The tool is systematic, transparent (though confidential), evidence-based and consistent with established policing principles. It is also very scalable (equally effective with 10, 1000 or 10,000 offenders, etc).

Therefore, the Police in general and the National Organised Crime Group in particular can have confidence in their prioritization decisions made using the tool created with 1000minds.


The availability of a prioritization tool ensures organized crime investigators are supported in their decision-making. Such support simplifies and speeds up prioritization decisions and increases consistency across investigations and police districts.

The tool could be adapted for use in other countries, for prioritizing offenders in other crime areas such as fraud or sexual offending, and for police budget decision-making in general (CAPEX or OPEX).

The project to create the prioritization tool summarized above is fully documented in the following peer-reviewed article.


About the use of 1000minds for prioritizing organized crime offenders for investigation.

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