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Organised crime in Western Balkans Six at the onset of coronavirus

Saša Djordjević (Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Belgrade, Serbia)
Bojan Dobovšek (Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 30 September 2020

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the consequences of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) into crime-fighting and present new criminal landscapes in the Western Balkans Six (WB6) (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) at the beginning of the pandemic crisis.


The paper builds on the content analysis of legal acts, strategic documents, academic articles, media reporting, official documents, four semi-structured interviews with civil society organisations, two consultations with police officers and two consultations with civil society organisations.


In the first nine weeks of the spread of COVID-19, the WB6 experienced a small rise in the price of marijuana. The same applied to stimulant drugs like ecstasy and amphetamines. However, very little heroin was available. Prices of protective face masks, disinfectants and medicinal alcohol skyrocketed due to attempts at price gouging. There were cases of scams using mobile and digital technologies, as well as burglaries of newspaper or cigarette kiosks, shops, pharmacies and exchange offices. It was difficult to determine whether the smuggling of and trafficking in human beings experienced a decline or increase. No cases of sexual exploitation for providing online services were noted, although the number of calls made to organisations that assist in the area of human trafficking increased. People with drug and alcohol problems, persons living with HIV, those susceptible to stress, citizens with mental health problems, pensioners, the poor, the homeless and recently released prisoners were the biggest potential victims of crime at the onset of the crisis brought by the pandemic.

Research limitations/implications

The research findings are limited to specific forms of crime (illicit drug trade, economic crime, fraud, scams, theft, smuggling of and trafficking in human beings) in the WB6 and based on findings from four interviews and four consultations, together with available secondary data.


This is the first overview of criminal activities occurring in the WB6 during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.



Djordjević, S. and Dobovšek, B. (2020), "Organised crime in Western Balkans Six at the onset of coronavirus", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 40 No. 9/10, pp. 807-820.



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