Thus, many shipments go to another destination before the United States or Europe in order to throw law enforcement off of the trail. For cocaine coming out of Colombia, West Africa and Venezuela, home to rogue states and dictatorships, have become popular transit hubs.
The increased transportation of goods accompanying globalization has increased opportunities for maritime piracy. Organized crime is exploiting the increasingly dense international flow of commercial vessels. Maritime piracy consists not only of hijacking of goods, but also kidnapping of passengers for ransom. (UNODC, 2010, p. 11)
OC groups engaged in pirating do not often begin as OC groups. Pirates off the cost of Somalia started as local Somali fishermen who formed vigilante groups to protect their territorial waters. These armed ships eventually exceeded their mandate of mere protection and began to hijack commercial ships for goods. These activities have proved so profitable that these groups are now drifting further from the Somali Coast and attacking commercial freighters and pleasure craft completely unrelated to Somalia. (UNODC, 2010, p. 11)
Less developed nation-states with weaker governance are attractive spots for organized crime activity. The governments of such nations are typically more corrupt and self-interested. Such corruption by government officials allows organized crime groups to penetrate those nations, not only through the neglect of law enforcement duties, but also through active assistance by those government officials. These "white-collar collaborators" use their local connections and knowledge to improve logistics for the organizations' operations. (UNODC, 2010, p. ii). The Japanese Yakuza started up lucrative sex trade and smuggling operations in the Philippines through bribes and gifts to local businessmen and bureaucrats. (Kaplan, 2003, p. 252-53).
Globalization has made it harder to detect and stop organized crime because it provides increased mobility. OC groups can plan or perform many elements of a criminal operation from virtually anywhere and have started to do so. Unfortunately, organized crime is not seriously combated in most areas in the world. Many countries in the world simply do not have the infrastructure in place to respond to organized crime. This results in much organized crime activity going undetected, much less stopped.
Organized crime is different from conventional crime in that the existence of organized crime is not typically reported to law enforcement authorities. (Lyman & Potter, 2007, p. 8). Thus, law enforcement authorities can only detect organized crime by proactively investigating it. Such investigations require a huge investment in manpower, money, and political will. Furthermore, this investment does not necessarily guarantee results in the form of arrests, especially if investigative efforts are not sustained.
The ability to detect organized crime is contingent on three key elements, which are lacking in many parts of the world. First, law enforcement must have sufficient resources to take on the additional work beyond their normal case load, which is often considerable. Second, law enforcement must have the skills to conduct long-term, clandestine investigations. Third, law enforcement forces must be able to resist the corrupting influence of organized crime groups. (UNODC, 2010, p. 27).
For many developing countries, corruption is a major roadblock to the detection and regulation of organized crime activities. Government officials and local businessmen play a huge role in enabling organized criminal activities. (Abadinsky, 2010, p. 24) In developing countries, low salaries and the lack of a strong civic spirit among government officials makes them highly susceptible to bribes and coercion by OC groups. Such officials will not only decline to report activity, but will often actively assist in the execution of criminal operations.
Corruption of government officials often causes organized criminal activity to go undetected. In some cases, such activities are even reported as legitimate because of the participation of government officials, such as with the legitimation of illegal timber by official paperwork in the Philippines. (UNODC, p. 154) This obscures the nature of legitimate and illegitimate economic activity in these countries, compromising the intelligence-gathering efforts of law enforcement.
Even in countries where law enforcement forces can resist corruption, efforts to combat organized crime are often frustrated by a lack of political will. The United States is a country where law enforcement authorities have the resources, skills, and civic loyalty to combat organized crime, yet many activities are left unregulated
Countries that are affected by organized crime and have the ability to combat organized crime can no longer combat organized crime alone. Globalization has separated the sources of production from the sources of consumption through outsourcing. Thus, the individual elements of an organized criminal operation are likely to be located in more than one country. Thus, it is almost impossible for the law enforcement authorities of one country to stop an organized criminal operation completely.
Even when law enforcement authorities can stop criminal operations, it is difficult for them to apprehend key leadership. The leadership of OC groups often place themselves out of the reach more capable law enforcement forces. For many groups, this location is the organization's very own country of origin, where law enforcement authorities have either been bribed by the OC group or lack the resources to combat the OC group. This explains why the strongest criminal organizations are located outside of the countries with the strongest law enforcement apparatus, such as the United States. The leadership of the Russian Mafia enjoys strong connections with old Soviet military contacts. (Mallory, 2007, p. 90). The Yakuza have developed a stable, respectful relationship with governmental authorities in Japan, who even rely on the Yakuza to prevent crime and unrest. (Kaplan, 2003, p. 182).
Furthermore, many organized crime groups are undergoing a decentralization of their organizational structure. They are opting for the federated model instead of the centralized, pyramid model with all authority resting at the top. This makes it even more difficult to pin down the leadership of criminal organizations.
In the rare cases where a country is successful in stopping an organized criminal operation, the result is not a true cessation of such activity but, rather, a displacement. Success in suppressing organized crime operations in one country often pushes those illicit activities into other countries. (UNODC, 2010, p. v). This makes a comprehensive, coordinated, and long-term solution necessary.
Responses to Global Organized Crime
There have been serious attempts to enable multi-national cooperation in combating organized crime. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, an agreement between members of the United Nations created in 2000 (UNODC, 2010, p. 25). The convention requires member countries to adopt certain responses to transnational problems such as smuggling. It also requires countries to repatriate criminals and victims in certain situations.
A Market-oriented Approach
Although international cooperation appears to be the biggest obstacle to combating organized crime, an even greater obstacle, perhaps, is the excessive focus on criminal groups instead of market forces. Individual criminal groups are not nearly as essential to illicit criminal activity as market forces. For example, the FBI's war on the Italian-American Mafia did much to reduce the organization's power, but ultimately failed to reduce the prevalence of criminal activities such as gambling, prostitution, or drug trafficking, in which the organization was heavily involved. A long-term reduction in such activities requires a reconfiguration of market forces, which would involve much more than just law enforcement efforts.
Some observers recommend a market-based approach instead of the traditional organization-based approach. The traditional organization-based approach focuses on tracking and arresting groups of professional criminals. However, "strategies aimed at the groups will not stop the illicit activities if the dynamics of the market remain unaddressed." (UNODC, 2010, p. v). Organized crime problems today seem are less a matter of a group of individuals who are involved in a range of illicit activities, and more a matter of a group of illicit activities in which some individuals and groups are presently involved. (UNODC, 2010, p. v).
The UNCTOC has taken the first steps to changing this, defining organized crime as "…any serious offence committed by a group of three or more people with the aim of making money." Such a broad definition represents a more market-oriented approach. The institutional recognition that market forces are key elements of the problem is a good first step. However, acting on this understanding is difficult, as market forces are extremely difficult to control. In fact, market forces, sometimes referred to as the "invisible hand," are more likely to control than be controlled.
The most promising approach to controlling the market forces underlying organized crime is to work on reducing demand for illegal goods, services, and people. This is often referred to as the "licit" side of illicit economic activity because it occurs over-ground, involving largely legitimate actors. (UNODC, 2010, p. 277-278). Legitimate actors are more responsive to government regulation because they often have much more to lose from violating the law than OC groups, who have already accepted the risk of violating the law.
Most illicit economic activities are mirrored by parallel licit activities, which help to conceal those illicit activities. For example, the trade in…