How Interpol Stays Relevant 100 Years After Creation

How does Interpol, the international network of police forces work, and what are they up to these days?

The idea which later evolved into Interpol was born just over 100 years ago at the first International Criminal Police Congress (ICPC) in Monaco. It wasn’t until 1956 that the organization became known as Interpol, well after the 1923 creation of its predecessor, the International Criminal Police Commission.

The organization is not a part of the United Nations, but the two often work in collaboration with each other to combat international crimes. Interpol is recognized as an intergovernmental organization and communicates through four designated languages: English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.


With massive global reach and name recognition to its advantage, Interpol is not without its criticisms. The organization has a history of flaws, and has even at times worked to the advantage of corrupt regimes, something modern reforms aim to prevent.

Before the 9/11 attacks the global law enforcement agency was a self-proclaimed “slow, sleepy, unresponsive institution headquartered in Lyon, a French city better known for its cuisine than for law enforcement.” The attacks were a wake-up call to the organization, and in the years following, Interpol has been working harder to stay up to date.

How Does Interpol Work?

In contrast to myths of covert international arresting agents, Interpol does not have officers, and cannot make arrests. Instead, the organization works alongside local police forces within participating countries, providing police with the information to act upon.

The organization’s international resources include:

  • Notices: Color coded alert messages (see accompanying image) regarding international crimes, which can range from warnings to information requests. 
  • Command and Coordination Centre: Central locations in France and Argentina (and soon to be Singapore) operating 24 hours a day, every day of the year to help connect police around the worldinterpol
  • National Central Bureaus (NCBs): These locations are the nuclei of crime-fighting activities in its member countries. The United States’ NCB is in Washington.
  • I-24/7 Network Databases: A secure, international criminal database linking participating countries. The organization says,“It’s a bit like a private Internet just for police.”

Through these resources, the network assists police forces to make moves on global crimes. In the past two years, Interpol has aided in the capture of international fugitives, including that of a Texas sex offender, a bank robber, and a fraudulent former businessman nearly 20 years on the run.

Cybercrime and The Future of Interpol

[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”15Z1uvjihHxKWojxoTD9OG8UU2DDYPI2″]Despite its roots in the 20th century, Interpol is working hard to keep up with the evolution of crime. In early 2015, Palestine applied to become a member of the organization, in hopes to help prosecute fugitives who have fled the country before trial.

Along with the potential for additional member countries, the global organization is developing new tactics, including strategies for policing the Internet, which has become a new frontier for crime.

To train police officers in the search for cyber criminals, Interpol has begun developing its own dark web, mimicking black market sites like Silk Road.

“The dark web is an area of the web that does not appear on the open Internet,” a recent article from Business Insider says. “Sites hosted on it do not appear in regular search engines and require specific tools to be accessed.”

By simulating underground websites, the organization hopes to educate officers in member countries on the structure of Internet-based organized crime, to keep up with the fast-growing pace of cybercrime.

Updated. Cover image courtesy of the Interpol Media Gallery.

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Cheyenne MacDonald