Growth of Organized Crime Is Best Understood Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

growth of organized crime is best understood when situated within a broader societal context. Illustrate why this is so, giving specific examples from the lectures / required readings. Why is this understanding important for controlling organized crime?

It is prudent to consider organized crime within the broader societal context because research evidence and criminology theory has shown that such crime does not occur in isolation; rather, it is driven by a set of societal factors ranging from cultural values to corruption, political failures, and economic issues. Society, therefore, does have a hand in the emergence and continued development of organized crime; as a matter of fact, organized crime is integrated into society, and unless we can effectively conceptualize and understand society's role in fueling the same, we may not be able to devise a sustainable solution to the issue of organized crime.

Criminology theory and models give credence to the idea that organized crime is driven and fueled by society. These have been able to demonstrate that organized crime occurs as a result of failures or inconsistencies in the political, economic and social systems that govern society.

The Role of Political Factors: political models suggest that organized crime occurs as a result of the disconnect that exists in the country's political systems. The unit 3 sound file clearly demonstrates that when the political system is vulnerable, criminals take advantage of the inherent gaps therein to further their own interests at the expense of other citizens (Unit 3 lecture notes). In his review of the Sicilian Mafia, Servadio (1978), as shown in the unit 3 lecture notes, clearly demonstrates that when the political systems are weak, there are no adequate mechanisms to keep the government in check, and this provides room for unscrupulous officials within government to enrich themselves by forming links with criminal organizations. The tobacco smuggling business between Canada and the U.S., for instance, thrived primarily because of corruption among security and border patrol officials at the border (Beare, 2002: 228). Moreover, when the government's authority is weakened, say as a result of moving from autocracy to democracy, as the unit 2 notes show, and the administration is unable to secure and provide for its people, criminal groups are deemed to develop and thrive as people try to earn an income to support themselves.

These people then begin to rely on these criminal groups to provide the safety and security that the government is unable to provide. These were the circumstances under which the Sicilian Mafia group developed -- Anton Blok's 1974 review, as presented in the unit 3 lecture notes, clearly demonstrates that with the break-up of feudalism, the central government got so weak that it was unable to protect its peoples' estates, leaving this responsibility to organized groups that only ended up harassing poor citizens, especially those who could not afford to pay for services rendered. Society, therefore, contributes to organized crime through weak political systems, and in order to effectively combat the issue of organized crime, policymakers will need to include in their prevention policies effective strategies for correcting gaps in the political systems. Failure to consider organized crime from this perspective increases the risk of developing incomprehensive policies.

Economic Factors: the economic factors that open up opportunities for the emergence and development of organized crime cannot be overlooked. The organized crime business operates in the same way as the normal market. Sellers in any legit business will often supply commodities to the market as long as there is demand for the same. In the same way, criminals will keep supplying their supplies as long as there is a market and demand for the same (Ruggiero, 2002: 178). The society facilitates the emergence and continued development of organized crime by providing a market and demand for the commodities that it supplies. This is perfectly demonstrated by Beare (2002:235) in the tobacco smuggling business between the U.S. And Canada -- despite putting in place stringent measures to curb the transit of cigarettes from the U.S. To Canada, including carrying out numerous seizures, there was no evidence that the criminal activity would stop. As long as the demand is there, organized crime cannot be expected to stop. The solution, as Beare (2002:235) points out, lies in slowing down the demand.

Then there is the issue of patron-client relationships -- economics is based on the concept of exchange. Individuals exchange something for goods and services, in which case they are termed as the patron, and the other party, the supplier. Patron-client relationships aid in the development of organized crime. For instance, as the unit 2 notes demonstrates, a criminal group could help in campaigning and providing votes for a certain politician, and the politician could offer its members protection in return. Alternatively, criminal groups could use the funds they gather to fund projects in the community, and community members could give them their support in return, allowing their activities to infiltrate even further. Moreover, criminal groups could offer bribes to border patrol officers, and the officers would show leniency in return. The most significant form of patron-client relationships, is perhaps that between the state and criminal groups. In this case, criminal groups provide security (as was the case with the Sicilian Mafia), and use the leniency provided thereof to grow their operations. This, however, is largely dependent on the political climate and the strength of the political systems. Regardless of which side the relationship flows, nonetheless, it facilitates the continued success of organized crime. Understanding these underlying issues is crucial to addressing the issue of organized crime.

Social and Cultural Factors: Literature has shown that society drives organized crime through some of the cultural values that it imposes upon individuals (Galeotti, 2008: 6). Cultural patterns that rely on favors or contacts, emphasize a culture of autonomy and lawlessness, and encourage suspicion of the government or outsiders breed grounds for criminal patterns. A perfect example of the role of cultural values in driving organized crime is demonstrated by the Chinese Triads presented in the unit 3 class notes. The Chinese culture is known for its emphasis on respect for the family unit. As Liu et al. (1998) and Myers (1995) (both presented in the unit 3 notes demonstrate, the Chinese are expected to respect family values and always provide for their families. The family is taken as the model for social interactions; and as such, the law is relegated and marginalized to a lower position when it comes to human relationships (Liu et al. (1998), unit 3 class notes). Anything that steers loyalty, secrecy and brotherhood among individuals in their social interactions is, therefore, acceptable even if it goes contrary to the law. The Chinese Triads based their relations on this cultural dimension -- in the Chinese setting, such a group was acceptable just because it fostered loyalty, unity and brotherhood among members. Cultural values such as these, which marginalize the rule of law, open up opportunities for organized crime to flourish.

The preceding paragraphs are a perfect illustration that organized crime does not just occur; rather, it is caused and driven by various factors and influences in society. Failing to recognize and take these societal influences into account is a recipe for developing ineffective policies for fighting organized crime. Policymakers may thus need to identify elements in their political and cultural environments that weaken their systems, thereby providing opportunities for the development of organized crime. Moreover, they need to devise ways of destroying market opportunities by slowing down the demand for goods traded by criminal groups. If they can effectively combine these strategies with the ongoing ones of prosecuting perpetrators, conducting seizures, and screening officials for any records of criminal involvement before taking up public office, then they may be able to put up a more comprehensive fight against organized crime. The first step towards achieving this, however, is recognizing and understanding that organized crime is best understood if situated within a broader societal context.


Beare, M. (2002). Organized Corporate Criminality -- Tobacco Smuggling between Canada and the U.S. Crime, Law and Social Change, 37(3), 225-243.

Galeotti, M. (2008). Criminal Histories: An Introduction. Global Crime, 9(1), 1-7.

Ruggiero, V. (2002). Fuzzy Criminal Actors. Crime, Law and Social Change, 37(3), 177-190.

Part Two

Outline the main issues in organized crime now. What are the threats posed by organized crime groups now as compared to their earlier counterparts? What are some of the problems in controlling organized crime?

Globalization and technological advancement have changed the way organized crime is managed and conducted; and this, as the sound file presented in unit 5 demonstrates, has made it more difficult for law-enforcement agencies to control criminal activities. Just as is the case with cybercrime and fraud, organized crime has evolved along with changing opportunities and changing environments. Criminal groups today, unlike their counterparts in earlier centuries, are not confined to specific territories, geographical locations, or countries. The internet, as the unit 5 notes point out, has made it relatively easy…

Sources Used in Document:


Beare, M. (2002). Organized Corporate Criminality -- Tobacco Smuggling between Canada and the U.S. Crime, Law and Social Change, 37(3), 225-243.

Finckenauer, J.O. (2005). Problems of Definition: What is Organized Crime? Trends in Organized Crime, 8(3), 63-83.

Finckenauer, J.O. & Voronin, Y.A. (2001). The Threat of Russian Organized Crime: Issues in International Crime. The U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from

Galeotti, M. (2008). Criminal Histories: An Introduction. Global Crime, 9(1), 1-7.

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