Organized crime presents certain unique challenges for law enforcement in the 21st century. As noted by Bjelopera & Finklea (2012) in their report to Congress on the history of organized criminal activity in the United States, modern organized criminal networks tend to be more fluid and less hierarchical than organized associations of the past. Organized crime networks are also more apt to outsource critical aspects of their operations, which can make building a unified case a challenge for law enforcement agencies (Bjelopera & Finklea, 2012, p.1). Diverting resources to combat terrorism have also left law enforcement agencies in the United States with fewer financial resources to combat other forms of organized crime, although some of the methods to trace both types of organizations, such as patterns of money laundering, are similar between both of these types of illicit associations. But in the future, given the increasingly international nature of organized crime, looking beyond traditional, domestic forms of enforcement may be required.
Organized crime is defined as "criminal activity that, through violence or threatening people, seeks to the extract illegal or legal rents from the community" (Calderon 2015). Organized criminal organizations may include the Italian Mafia, Cosa Nostra, or any number of less well-known illegal groups. Unlike terrorist organizations, organized criminals are primarily driven by the need make a profit, not by an ideology. They may have equally rigid systems as terrorist entities in allocating power and controlling the activities of members, as well as punishing those who deviate from group rules (Finklea, 2010, p.3).
In general, organized crime involves criminal activities including but not limited to "prostitution, undocumented immigration, illegal substances, stolen goods, piracy, illegal gambling" that the public are prohibited from obtaining by legal means and providing them illegally (Calderon 2015). Organized crime may also involve purveying stolen goods at a cheaper price or using extortion (for example, demanding that legitimate businesses pay for 'protection'). Organized crime poses a threat to the community through the threat of violence and by threatening legitimate businesses and reducing trust in and respect for the law if authorities cannot contain its spread. Additionally, as noted by Finklea (2010), there is an overall negative effect of organized criminal associations' illegal activities due to a loss of tax revenue that could be gained through legitimate purposes, such as when organized crime groups sell illegal goods or when they engage in identity theft.
In the United States, in recent years the most common method of policing organized crime has been leveraging the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 which prohibits so-called racketeering activities (Finklea, 2010, p.3). RICO has been used against a variety of groups and specifically prohibits activities involving illegal interstate or international activities including: "murder, kidnapping, gambling, ...
Despite the fact that investigating terrorist versus organized criminal organizations has drawn greater interest and public attention in recent years, there is often a fair amount of overlap between the types of crimes that fuel organized crime and terrorism, including money laundering. Money laundering is necessary for all organized criminal organizations to ensure that their illegal funds appear to be legitimately obtained and to avoid detection (Bjelopera & Finklea, 2012, p.9). Online banking has made money laundering considerably easier than it has been in the past. For example, Mexican drug traffickers make ample use of "digital currency accounts," fake e-businesses, and even online role-playing games that require monetary transactions (Bjelopera & Finklea, 2012, p.9). The more innovative the methods, the more difficult such transactions can be to track. Prepaid cards can also be used to transport money out of the country (Bjelopera & Finklea, 2012, p.9)
More old-fashioned methods are still in use, such as shell organizations. Shell companies are technically legal entities but they serve no other meaningful purpose than to conceal illicit activities (Bjelopera & Finklea, 2012, p.9). Not all shell organizations exist solely on paper; sometimes organizations may be legitimate but are still used as fronts for concealing the bulk of the funds actually propping up the organization. For example, to use a fictional example, the drug dealer of Breaking Bad uses a chain of car washes to conceal the profits from his business ("Money laundering," 2016). Other common techniques used even before the digital era include so-called smurfing, or depositing small sums of a large amount of ill-gotten gains to avoid notice. Using offshore accounts in nations with more lax laws about tracking funds (or who may have law enforcement agents more amenable to be bribed or who are actively involved in the scheme) is also popular as a way to conceal the origins of large sums of cash ("Money laundering," 2016).
Ever since the beginnings of modern organized crime, drug trafficking has played a critical role in generating funds. The Italian Mafia was involved during Prohibition in the trafficking of alcohol, which was then illegal in the United States and has since been active in selling illegal drugs. It is only one of many criminal organizations involved in this field. For many organizations, particularly in Latin America, trafficking in drugs provides the bulk of the organization's revenue (Calderon 2015). In a number of nations, particularly in Mexico, organized criminal drug trafficking has infiltrated law enforcement, making it even more difficult to control the spread of drugs across the nation's borders. Organizations retain their dominance "through kidnapping, extortion, and establishing protection rackets" (Calderon 2015). This also highlights how organized crime can be linked to national security issues as well as to attempting to limit the flow of drugs across the nation's borders (Calderon 2015). It can be difficult to work with nations where organized crime has an active role in bribing or otherwise engaging in corrupt activities with law enforcement agencies themselves.
Mexico has become a particularly problematic issue for policing drug trafficking because of the fact that it has become a popular site of drug retailing as well as drug trafficking. Its increased wealth and a growing middle-class population has strengthened the presence of illicit traffickers due to the fact that more Mexicans are capable of supporting the market as well as the nation providing a route of convenient transit (Calderon 2015). Organized crime has grown increasingly emboldened and difficult to contain and drug-related violence has spilled over into middle and upper-class communities.
Organized Crime: A Study in Diversity
No single nation or ethnicity can be uniquely singled out as being problematic and singularly responsible for organized criminal…
But in the future, given the increasingly international nature of organized crime, looking beyond traditional, domestic forms of enforcement may be required.
Organized Crime has been witnessed to prosper with the infiltration on legitimate businesses in a way that they associate themselves in order to steal from the host. Organized crime organizations execute such activities in order to generate income, sweep profits, achieve more power, and launder wealth (Abadinsky, 2009). The crimes that are committed by the individuals that are employed in the legitimate corporations are particularly known as white collar crimes.
Organized crime has been romanticized in American film and television media. Although some of the depictions are stereotyped and exaggerated, many of the core elements revealed in fictionalized accounts of organized crime are real. The history of organized crime in America is linked with important historical and political events including the prohibition of both drugs and alcohol. According to the United States National Security Council (2013), organized crime is defined by
Human trafficking occurs through clandestine or deceptive activities, avoiding legal border controls, and through the use of fraudulent documents. Illegal smuggling or trafficking hinders the safety and well-being of Americans since it has a negative influence on both the regional and national security ("Multinational Operations," 2011). Illegal smuggling more than trafficking of humans has become one of the major areas for organized crime operations in America because of its
This creates an environment for criminal organizations where they "... can operate in parallel to existing business and government institutions" Shaw uses the Soviet Union as a good example of this phenomenon. "...the collapse of communist rule allowed the emergence of literally thousands of criminal organisations involving current and former members of the establishment " (Shaw). As Shaw and others points out, a situation where there are functional links between
Organized Crime Reduction Strategy There is no doubt whatsoever that transnational organized crime groups are a threat to not only the security of the countries in which they operate, but also global security in general. Often operating in well-organized formations, transnational organized crime groups are often difficult to annihilate or contain. It should, however, be noted that given their impact on both the security and stability of the countries or regions
In extreme cases whole legitimate economic sectors are dislocated by commerce based on illegal activities, subverting loyalties from the nation-state and habituating individuals to operating outside the legal framework; 3) Degrade environmental systems through evasion of environmental safeguards and regulations; 4) Destabilize strategically important nations and hinder the progress of so-called economies in transition and developing economies and otherwise interfere with a nation's foreign policy goals and the international system; and