Estd. 2006
INTERPOL –Reality beats the fiction

Jürgen Stock

A TERRORIST arrested attempting to cross a border while using a stolen passport. A child abuse victim rescued after being identified through images posted online. Millions of stolen dollars intercepted from a phishing scam targeting victims worldwide.

Not the storylines from a blockbuster movie, but the everyday work of INTERPOL supporting its 195 member countries.

The threats we face today are fast, mobile, self-reinforcing and interconnected. Indeed, we are witnessing unprecedented complexity in the criminal threat landscape. 

To address these global threats, INTERPOL’s activities are based around three programmes that reflect the policing concerns of our membership: counter-terrorism, cybercrime, and organized and emerging crime.

And, in response to an increasing convergence of criminal flows across the world, earlier this year INTERPOL established itsfinancial crime and anti-corruption centre.

With less than one per cent of global illicit financial flows intercepted and recovered, and the global economy under increasing pressure, a key area for increased action is the tracing, seizure and confiscation of criminal assets.

It is with this backdrop that our global membership will be gathering in New Delhi from 18 to 21 October for our 90th General Assembly, the Organization’s supreme governing body.

INTERPOL was created in 1923 to address a pressing need for regional and global policing coordination. Nearly a century later, that need continues to grow as the criminal landscapeevolves at ever increasing speeds. What was then a ground-breaking initiative to establish parameters for cross-border information exchange, is now the standard.

Back then telegrams, telephone and postal services dictated the limits for law enforcement cooperation.

Today, with the click of a button, police anywhere in the world can instantly check against INTERPOL’s 19 global databases containing 126 million records including DNA profiles and facial recognition images.

Our databases are searched more than 20 million times each day – which equates to around 250 searches per second.

By its very nature, law enforcement is traditionally reactive. However as we approach the dawn of a new century of police cooperation, the global law enforcement community is taking concrete steps to future-proof its systems.

Technological advances must be embedded in police work to be an active agent of international law enforcement cooperation.

However, the human connection remains essential to global security - no machine can replace a handshake. No database can replace a conversation.

This is why our General Assembly remains fundamentally important to INTERPOL’s mission –connecting police for a safer world.

Police leaders from around the world come together to address global security issues through the unique platform which is INTERPOL.

They will share best practices from the lessons learned in adapting to a new technological landscape, including the need for frameworks which ensure a balance between security and privacy.

They will hear about successes – from an operation targeting illicit drugs resulting in seizures worth nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, to a crackdown on criminal groups leading to the rescue of nearly 700 victims of human trafficking.

How global cooperation via INTERPOL brings real results at the national level. A recent example was India’s participation in Operation Lionfish targeting drug trafficking.

Indian authorities made the largest single seizure of heroin during the operation with 75.3 kg of the drug intercepted in the Port of Mundra.

This was followed by the success of Operation Garuda, where theCentral Bureau of Investigation, in close coordination with INTERPOL and the Narcotics Control Bureau,targeted drug cartels with international links, resulting in 175 arrests and 127 cases registered across the country.

Another example of the importance of cooperation via INTERPOL is our International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database.

Containing more than four million images, videos and hashes of child sexual exploitation material, the ICSE database helps identify an average seven child abuse victims every single day. To date, the database has assisted in the identification of more than 30,000 victims worldwide.

Earlier this year India became the 68th country to connect to this specialized database, and has already seen significant results from being part of this global network dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

And of course, one of the fundamental drivers behind the creation of INTERPOL nearly 100 years ago remains at the forefront of our work today – helping countries bring fugitives to justice, no matter where they attempt to hide and no matter for how long they flee.

Every year INTERPOL Red Notices alert police worldwide about internationally wanted fugitives, helping countries identify and arrest thousands of murderers, rapists, terrorists, fraudsters and other criminals.

While there may be differences at the geopolitical level, for law enforcement the focus is, and must always be, upholding the rule of law, following an investigation no matter where it leads, no matter from where vital policing information comes from.

Indeed, today, strong intra-regional policing is a reality and we are witnessing cross-border exchanges between law enforcement agencies as never before in global history.

It is the commitment and professionalism of law enforcement in member countries such as India which makes INTERPOL a vital part of the global security architecture.

Recognizing India’s contribution to international law enforcement, last year the General Assembly elected Special Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation Praveen Sinha to be Executive Committee Delegate for Asia.

It is against the backdrop of India’s rich history and future-looking approach that delegates from around the world will gather to address the most pressing crime issues of today, and how we can continue our joint efforts to address the threats of tomorrow.

The General Assembly is the most important event in the Organization’s calendar, and I cannot think of a more suitable place for it to be hosted than New Delhi.

(Jürgen Stock is a German police officer and academic. He was appointed as Secretary General of INTERPOL in November 2014 and was re-appointed in October 2019 to serve a second five-year term.)

October 18 2022