Each year, the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) creates an organized crime report to inform the public of organized crime activities and markets in Canada. The nature of such activity is evolving -- new threats, participants and policies spring forth each year (McIntosh, 2010). It is critical that Canadians are informed of the nature and scope of such activity, governmental interventions and policing, and what they can personally do to thwart organized crime (CISC, 2010).
The Criminal Code (467.1) of the CISC defines criminal organizations as those consisting of three or more persons within Canada or in outlying areas that exist only to commit serious offenses that result in their own material or financial benefit (Tusikov, 2009). Random criminal rings that develop for a single offense are not included; rather the CISC is most concerned with systemic, organized units conducting continued and premeditated illegal acts. This report will focus on three major criminal activities -- identity theft, migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and illicit drugs -- and steps that law enforcement operations has taken in recent years to ensure the safety of the Canadian public.
As early as 2005, Canada began to see rampant increases in incidents of compromised personal information (Katz, 2011). Security in this area is now a major political and personal issue, and has resulted in greater governmental pressure to protect the public from such threats. Identity theft and identity fraud were the 2008 Feature Focus of the CISC organized crime report. That same year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a massive campaign to alert the public of taxpayer scams using phishing emails and postal letters requesting personal information, fraudulently on behalf of the CRA (Curry & Mongrain, 2009). In addition, 2008 saw some of its highest instances of organized crime rings leveraging technology to commit deceptive acts and steal consumer information. Everything from malicious Trojan computer viruses to wireless credit card scanners used outside of retail establishments was employed to steal personal information and financial records. Many of the organized units also turned to technology to facilitate communication between individuals and groups, often resorting to disposable cellular devices that are untraceable in most instances (CISC, 2007).
In 2008, the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre (CAFCC) reported over 10,000 identity theft and identity fraud complaints resulting in over $6M in losses (Lampe, 2008). Canadians aged 35 to 54 are the primary targets, with credit or debit card information being compromised in most cases. By the year 2009, identity theft had become even more widespread. Forged birth records, SIN and health cards, driver's licenses and passports present very profitable opportunities for criminal groups (CISC, 2009). Many organized crime groups have become specialists in the creation of false identifications, a tactic that typically involves stealing the identity of an unsuspecting person -- children or the deceased are particularly vulnerable. Online access to personal information through the hacking of banking computer systems has aided criminals in their thievery. To complicate matters, organized criminal groups often utilize false identifications themselves making it harder for law enforcement agencies to pinpoint them and intervene.
Efforts by law enforcement to stop such activities include more stringent security guidelines for financial institutions utilizing online systems and even electronic chips implanted in passports (Katz, 2011). The most vigilant anti-identity theft strategy, however, has been in the form of public awareness campaigns that teach citizens how to protect themselves. Actions such a protecting account passwords, shredding personal mail and receipts, and being cautious of requests for personal information have proven very effective at limiting organized group access to information that can be stolen and used for criminal activity.
Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking
Each year, adults and children are illegally smuggled into Canada. Migrant smuggling usually involves consent among non-citizens for assistance in bypassing Canadian immigration laws and processes (CISC, 2007). Participants often pay organized crime groups for false documentation. In other instances, crime units act as service provides providing quiet arrangements that sidestep governmental immigration checks and balances all together. In some cases illegals have committed serious crimes in their native country and may pose a potential threat to the safety of the public. Another issue is that governmental funds used to locate, arrest, prosecute and help illegals migrants back to their home countries divert funds from other needed Canadian public services and programs (CISC, 2010).
In the case of human trafficking, the impact is even sadder and more serious. Most involves women and minors who have no power or voice in the matter. Often they are forced into the sex trade by organized crime units. In exchange for food, housing or freedom from debts, victims are exploited and often endure horrific situations including violence, rape, starvation, torture, domestic servitude, or even death (Curry & Mongrain, 2009). Many are forced to take illegal drugs and develop addictions that make it virtually impossible for them to escape or leave their tormentors. In addition, the sexually transmitted diseases that are acquired and spread present very disastrous victim and public health risks.
Studies conducted in 2007 and 2008 reveal that the movement of illegal migrants and sex slaves encompasses several transit points in Canada, the U.S. And other nations (Tusikov, 2009). Much of the activity in Canada has been found to take place in the British Columbia, Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, Ontario and Quebec. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, nearly 800 women and children are trafficked into Canada annually (Katz, 2011). Most enter Canada from Asia (i.e., Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea) or Eastern Europe (i.e., Ukraine and Russia). A newer trend in recent years is the trafficking of young girls from Africa and the Caribbean. In addition, many street gangs are also involved in local human trafficking activity, exploiting poor Aboriginal and Canadian-born females and facilitating their movement throughout the country or introduction into the pornography industry and strip bar establishments (CISC, 2008).
Canada law officials have responded to the problem by cracking down on pedophiles and those who actively patronize the commercial sex market, creating sting operations and covert operations to make arrests (CISC, 2010). Perpetrators come from many different demographics -- married and single, older and younger, varying socio-economic backgrounds and varying racial groups. This makes the job more difficult to target. Still, the goal is to help curb the market demand for the sex trade.
Law enforcement agencies have instituted better tools to help stop trafficking including upgrading the National Sex Offender Registry in 2010 and enforcing tougher laws that address the use of technology in trafficking operations (i.e., child pornography, sex sites, and webcam operations used by organized crime rings) (Katz, 2011). There is an identified need for more specialized officers and social workers / agencies that specialize in the sex trafficking of children and assisting of victims that are fortunate enough to be rescued (CISC, 2010). Unfortunately, as of 2011 there has not been a national plan of action solidified to assist in these efforts (Katz, 2011). Most strategic maneuvers have been local, but the country is working with other governing bodies and international organizations to improve investigations, prosecutions and convictions in migrant smuggling and human trafficking for sexual exploitation because the two crimes often go hand in hand.
The illicit drug market in Canada is widespread and spans all communities -- urban, suburban and rural. The production, distribution and sale of illicit substances are considered to be the major financial supports of organized crime groups in Canada (CISC, 2008). In addition, drug abuse spurs criminal activity on the part of users. Many turn to robbery, identity theft, and violence in order to support their addictions. Powerful addictions increase demand. The demand keeps organized criminal rings in business. Further, the competitive marketplace leads to violence between various organized crime factions and drug dealers.
In 2006, the CISC cited that 80% of all crime groups in Canada were participating in illicit drug activity. In 2007, this figure was unchanged. The activities range from very sophisticated wholesale operations to more local criminal groups, with marihuana remaining the most produced and abused drug. A great deal of drug production occurs in the British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec and is exported heavily to the United States (CISC, 2008). Marihuana is dangerous for its seemingly harmless reputation, purported "gateway" effect and ability to be bartered for other drugs such as cocaine (Curry & Mongrain, 2009). In addition, grow operations can pose environmental risks to nearby residents due to fire hazards.
Cocaine is another significant problem. Organized crime groups import the drug directly from Peru, Jamaica, Mexico, Guyana, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. Crack cocaine is especially detrimental in urban areas across the country. Its highly addictive nature, cheap price point and temporary effects increase the likelihood of criminal activity on the part of users and make the demand extremely high.
Cocaine related crimes have most often been tied to street gangs who use neighborhood street corners, drug houses and "dial-a-dope" systems via disposable cellular phones to perpetrate their…