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Introduction To Organized Crime Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3965 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Organized crime groups have increased in dimension and activities in the last decade and have become global threats posing a serious challenge on the international community. In the United States, such groups have continued to expand despite measures to curb them and they have established networks in the major cities. Criminal groups have well developed international networks that help them to better exercise their activities in both legal and illegal markets by using complicated strategies and varied modi operandi (Jenkins & Gary 1987). Due to that, these groups are in a position to infiltrate the financial, political, and economic systems of countries the world over. With expansion of the internet and more open borders, organized crime has gradually taken transnational nature endangering United States both from within and beyond. This threat is brought by the various criminal associations, which include, Asian, African, Russian, Middle Eastern, and Balkan syndicates. As a result, it has become very difficult for the federal government to combat organized crime that is today very well organized and up-to-date with recent technology.

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During economic downturn period, organized crime could additionally weaken the economy with illicit activities for example drug trafficking and tax evasion frauds that lead to a loss of tax income for state and federal governments. Fake activities in spheres such as tactical merchandise, credit, indemnity, securities, and reserves could extra deteriorate the troubled monetary marketplace. On the state safety front, specialists and policymakers have articulated concern over potential nexus linking organized crime and terrorism. Notwithstanding the variation in inspiration for organized crime majorly profit and terrorism being ideology, the connecting aspect of the two is money (Bequai, 1979). Terrorists may potentially get financial support for their operations from collaborating frankly with structured criminal groups or molding their lucrative unlawful acts. Even though organized syndicates and terrorist groups do not make long-term associations, the likelihood of short-term business coalitions may be of concern to policymakers. Away from the individual illegal acts committed by organized criminal groups such as smuggling, extortion, prostitution, gambling, and labor racketeering. The organized crime council indicates that criminal groups may penetrate strategic sectors of the economy, provide support to terrorists, smuggle people and other contrabands into the United States, using cyberspace to target American victims and infrastructure, and use violence as a basis for power.

Due to the current developments, issues on management and dealing with organized criminal groups have emerged. It is evident that to deal with organized groups there is need for the new enforcement measures. Several policy makers have argued that the available laws are not effective at countering current threats posed by these groups. Because organized crime groups threaten America from both within borders and outside its borders. This has led to a wakeup call for the Congress as to whether they should enlarge law enforcements beyond borders to probe and put these criminals on trial, and to what level, should the Congress hearten multilateral crime fighting efforts. Another major issue that the Congress must put in mind is the availability of resources and how much is allocated to the federal government to deal with organized criminal groups (Alexander, 1985).

Theories of organized crime

There are numerous definitions of organized crime, in American context it is defined as a loose confederation of ethnic and regional crime groups, bound by economic and political necessity (Bequai, 1979). Mainly organized crime is comprised of three different categories of criminal activities namely, professional crime, white-collar crime which involves criminals using legal instruments and the operation of crime groups striving to achieve financial gain. According to Levi (1998), organized crime is ongoing unlawful business or other acts accompanied by intimidation and linked to politics. Assorted analogs are summoned to understand organized crime, including such different notions as the business conglomerate and feudalism. An organized crime group is seen sometimes as simply engaged in illegal business in a manner parallel to its legal counterpart. Other onlookers have noted the primeval nature of the ties binding an organized criminal group’s members, which thus differentiates it from a modern, unfriendly business corporation. Different conditions for the origin of organized crime have also been identified, including political, geographic, legal, and sociological factors (Skaperdas, 2001).

According to Liddick (1999 theories of organized crime may be grouped into three major theoretical prototypes: the alien-conspiracy/bureaucracy paradigm; the enterprise approach; and the patron-client relations perspective. The model or perspective dictates the approach. Thus, if one assumes that the chief characteristic of organized crime is its hierarchical organization, then one looks for coordination and conspiracy. This is the dominant approach of law enforcement in North America, which has been enormously unsuccessful in understanding and therefore in dealing with the phenomenon of organized crime (Geary, 2002). It presumes that immobilizing the leadership of organized crime groups will end criminal activity, but it never does. Knock off the key player, the organization falls apart, and the criminal activity ceases. On the other hand, the enterprise approach focuses on illegal markets. It views organized crime as servicing such markets, very much like legal business enterprises. These networks involve reciprocity they engage in activities beyond purely economic and they extend into the worlds of legitimate government and business (Liddick, 1999).

According to (Woodwiss, 2001), the past history of modern organized crime from the Yazoo land fraud of the 1790(s) to the Savings and Loan scandals of the 1980(s), clearly shows that organized crime in America has involved reputable people. It is a social occurrence, an important part of American life, and, ironically, not at all a threat to the existing order. It has been noted that most of the criminal activities show that those groups were not hierarchical, when organized crime get into the political system regardless of the means it is very hard to combat as it becomes well institutionalized. Herbert Alexander (1985), for instance, has recognized that clearly too little is known of political-criminal relationships, the occurrences, the levels, the geographic areas, the impacts they have. Even a landmark study of the reduction of organized crime’s influence on major industries in New York City drew a blank regarding politics, with the authors admitting that such connections had never been examined. Studies have shown that indeed there is an association between politicians, police, and organized crime groups. However, that the plan in the relationship came from the politicians. It was by no means a situation of organized crime intruding into politics, but of politicians reaching out to control and invite the criminals and their activities (Jenkins and Potter, 1987).

Organized Criminal Groups in the America

For many years organized crime in united States has been associated with the famous Italian Mafia, nevertheless there are many other organized criminal; groups in United States. In understanding and dealing with these groups, the Federal Bureau of Investigation examines organized criminal groups that are under three main classes: La Cosa Nostra (Italian organized), Eurasian/ Middle Eastern, and Asian and African criminal groups.

Eurasian/ Russian

This group does not only refer to the Russian crime syndicates but also various of Eurasian crime groups, these groups emerged in United States as early as the late 1970(s) and became very common when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Currently they are considered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be the most organized criminal group posing major threat to America. Russian group that operate in America show less traditional hierarchical structure as opposed to the Italian Cosa Nostra, they however, develop networks based on the skills required for certain crimes (Duyne, 1996). In America, this group is a responsible to criminal activity such as abduction, human trafficking, drug trafficking, theft, prostitution and extortion, and white-collar criminal acts such as money laundering. Federal Bureau of Investigation has shown that approximately 60% of the cases they handle about this group involve fraud. These frauds usually cut across various industries from strategic commodities and health to venture to indemnity, and credit card swindles. Other frauds they are involved in include tax evasion and even energy price rigging. Numerous Russian organized criminal groups operate in major cities such as Miami, New York, Boston, and many.

The main efforts to control Russian organized criminal groups include the development of both global and internal task forces and other committees charged with the mandate of dismantling these crime groups. Local police departments have set up several task forces in all the main cities to deal with this group. The FBI on the other hand is charged with the responsibility to handle international issues relating to Russian organized criminals. It works together with such groups like Eurasian Organized Crime Working Group, Central Working Group, and Southern European Cooperative Initiative. All these groups are aimed at combating this organized criminal group (Mauro, 1995). These groups are working very hard to attain power and wealth that being the main reason as to why they have patterns of criminal activities in American major cities. The group in the West Coast communicates with those in the East Coast and they have strong ties with those in the former Soviet Union. They have also gone an extra mile and formed associations with other criminal groups and their enterprises have proven to be very complex and profitable as they continue to operate using global networks.

Eurasian criminals are experts at swindle and have been portrayed as always having one foot in the gangland and one foot in legal business world. This blend makes it hard to notice when a crime is taking place. Billions of dollars in illegal proceeds from fraud are being transferred to accounts abroad and within the United States. There are concerns that these finances will be used to fund criminal activities in the United States (Mauro, 1995).

Russian organized criminal networks are involved in organized foreign smuggling through fake visa petitions and border crossing. Law enforcement departments have learned that this group networks with recognized shell corporations in America to assist in the illegal movement of money, and people as well.


This group has existed in the United States as early as 1900(s), nevertheless, there has been a major increase in Asian organized criminal activities. Various studies show that there is not even a single unified group but rather they are many crime groups whereby some are more traditionally organized than others are. They include Triads and Yakuza, which got Chinese and Japanese origin respectively. Groups such as the triads, tongs, and famous Asian street gangs that comprise of the Fuk Ching and Big Circle are less traditional. Just like the Russian Organized crime, groups this group tends to work together across tribal and ethnic ranks if it is lucrative for the business. Asian organized crime groups get a large amount of their earnings from smuggling in drugs and people, but are also aggressively involved in other illegal actions, that range from cash laundering, forgery, and deception to kidnapping and the theft of automobiles, computer software, and clothing (Turbiville, 1994). The Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that major cities in America are examples of regions with a elevated occurrence of Asian organized crimes.

American, law enforcement authority has relied heavily on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, money laundering, and asset forfeiture statutes to arraign Asian crime groups. Comparable to efforts intended at fighting Russian organized crime groups, United States law enforcement takes part in domestic and international working groups meant to fight Asian organized crime. Internally, the Interagency Working Group on Alien Smuggling inspects policy and analytical matters revolving around the smuggling of foreigners and trafficking of women and minors, involving participation of Asian criminal groups in these actions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also concerned with international working groups dealing with organized criminal groups of Asian origin, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation State Police Department of Japan Working Group, International Police Project Bridge, and many other working groups from other countries such as Canada, Thailand and so on.


The La Cosa Nostra is the most famous Italian organized crime group working in the United States. The La Cosa Nostra is implicated in a collection of unlawful actions, from betting, loan sharking to smuggling, and money laundering, which terrorize American society. The majority members of the La Cosa Nostra operate in the New York urban area, but there are also illegal operations in major American cities. La Cosa Nostra has been working in the United States ever since 1920(s) and still poses a risk at present. Former congressional and rule and regulation enforcement labors to combat organized crime were intended directly at controlling the criminal activities of the Mafia (Louise, 1995). Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuits have been mainly efficient in eradicating the La Cosa Nostra from lawful industries and amalgamations, for example, the Las Vegas gaming industry, the moving and storage businesses in New York, and the merger in place of truckers servicing JF Kennedy airport in New York. In addition to federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act statutes, many states have adopted Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act statues. Many believe that Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act has been mainly the dominant tool in fighting La Cosa Nostra. Despite these successful tools, the La Cosa Nostra remains a major organized crime risk to American society.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation recognizes Balkan organized criminal and the well-known Albanian groups in particular, for being among the main dreadful organized criminal groups at present, as proved, in part, by a swell in persons of Albanian origin arrested in the United States. Albanian organized crime syndicates have been in existence in the United States as early as in the late 1980(s) and have grown from being formally structured families to letting in foreigners with certain fields of criminal knowledge. These syndicates are dynamic in major cities like New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, to name a few (Louise, 1995). Balkan crime groups have been involved in various illegal activities such as, real estate fraud, extortion, gambling, robbery, drug trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering, murder, witness intimidation, and counterfeit currency. One upcoming tendency seen in the midst of Balkan organized criminal groups is an improved collaboration with other organizations increasing, but expanding. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has proved that the La Cosa Nostra has collaborated with Albanian criminal groups in New York. Where, the La Cosa Nostra normally relies on the Albanians for enforcement, and Albanians have gradually conquered some territory there that was formerly under control of the La Cosa Nostra.

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Several federal agencies normally collaborate and implement programs to combat organized crime in the country. Such agencies include, Homeland Security, Treasury, Defense, State, Commerce and department of justice. One initiative is the nuclear smuggling, the United States responds to nuclear smuggling by stopping any nuclear material getting into the country. The country in 2003 signed agreements and got into partnership with other countries to allow searching of planes and ships that are suspected of carrying such materials. The department of defense has effectively managed programs that help destroy any nuclear materials. The authorities have increased detection tools at the borders. Drug trafficking is under International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affair partner with other departments in implementing anti-drug campaigns and initiatives. Trafficking of persons is led by the State department in collaboration with other agencies. Money laundering and other economic crimes are handled by the treasury department with the help of other state departments.

Countering organized crime is not easy especially if the group has political ties. In most cases, these organized criminal groups mostly invest their money in legitimate businesses. Through such deals, these groups become institutionalized and well protected by the politicians as well as the police. Thus, measure of checking such criminal groups include enforcing the law strictly and good conduct for lawyers, wide public expectations of decency in politicians. More over the policing of organized crime has to be reoriented to its contribution and prevention. It has been proved that the American approach to these criminal groups is not the solution. There has to be major reforms in several departments, across the country from the justice to economy. Good governance that is fully strengthened is vital in eradicating the organized criminal groups in the country. Public education is also very important in helping eradicate these groups in the society. In most instances, the public knows about these groups but are not concerned about them because they feel that they do not affect them directly. There is need for awareness that though they may not be personally affected these groups pose great threat to their country at large and their also suffer the consequences of their acts indirectly.

Economic consequences

In most cases, economic consequences arise when organized crime is given room to flourish. These groups always cause unproductive employment of economic resources that otherwise could be employed elsewhere. In areas where mafias rule and are seen to provide security in a indirect manner, however the same level of security is compatible in with various levels of expenditure of much resources than that of a modern state that has efficient police and judicial system. Legal businesses are forced to pay high protection fees that normally affect their operations (Skaperdas, 2001). For the same businesses, regular constricting throughout the mainstream legal system can become tricky even if it concerns legal matters, since the mafia actively discourages recourse to the legal system as it represents a challenge to its authority and a reduction to the rationale for its existence.

The long-term impacts of organized crime could be still more overwhelming than its instant, static impacts. The area’s most able, industrial, and youth can choose to become gangbangers, as Skaperdas (2001) argues to be the case in American inner cities. Those are specifically the individuals who under different circumstances would provide very different types of community support and leadership. Once human beings develop human capital expertise in one area, it is very costly for them to change later in life. Former guerillas, demobilized soldiers after wars, and gang members have difficulties adapting to conventional lives and occupations later in life. Many find brigandage, robbery, or reversion to organized crime a familiar and more profitable lifestyle than its alternatives. Even after the destruction of organized crime in an area, it can take more than a generation before normalcy prevails.

In summing up, the costs of organized crime comprise of the resources spent on fraud and predation, instead of production; a range of more conservative productive and investment alterations; the contractual challenges that develop outside the sphere of contemporary governance; and the incentives for the development of human skills that are inclined towards appropriation instead of production. The American society should deter any form of organized crime by making all illegitimate acts costlier. The society should increase the likelihood of crime detection and heighten the punishment of the victims. As noted earlier organized crime syndicates coordinate very well and as a result the crimes they commit are not easy to detect (Skaperdas, 2001). These groups further go to the extent of protecting their group members from potential punishment by colluding with top government officials, employing violence against judges and even threatening probable witnesses.

In United States, the famous Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization act has effectively fought crimes that are committed by organized crime syndicates. This act lists various acts that are normally committed by organized criminal groups and provides penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

The act center of attention is on the patterns of criminal acts different from individual crimes. Thus, under RICO, the leader of a crime association can be arraigned in court even if he has never been personally engaged in any criminal activity. The penalties under RICO can be extremely harsh. Apart from a long prison sentence, an offender surrenders all interests and claims over the criminal activity, as well as over the property that makes up the racketeering activity or what was obtained from the racketeering activity (Woodiwiss, 2001). Further, RICO permits the victims of organized crime to recuperate from the convicted person in civil court. The RICO is intended, first to make revealing of criminal enterprises easier and eventually to cripple and eliminate organized crime enterprises.


In conclusion, it has been noted that organized groups are very common in United States and that all groups have different origins and mode of operation. The activities carried out by these groups’ cuts across different sectors of the economy. This makes the impacts of organized groups to be of great magnitude. These groups cause impacts that are negative and even pose a threat to the entire American society. Fighting these groups is thus not an option for the State, The federal government has established different federal authorities to combat these groups but have not fully succeeded. It has been noted that some of these groups have support from both the politicians and the police making these groups to be more institutionalized. These issues have made fighting the syndicates even more difficult. An enhanced understanding of international organized crime’s dynamics might assist Congress as it organizes, funds, and oversees anti-crime policies and programs. In addition, a scrutiny of the nexus between crime and terror could improve the government’s capacity to fight both. Stronger international law enforcement collaboration and more efficient government partnerships with the private sector


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