Organized crime is crime carried out systematically by formal criminal organizations. The Organized Crime Control Act (U.S. - 1970) defines organized crime as: "The unlawful activities of...a highly organized, disciplined association...". Some Criminal Organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are politically motivated. Mafias are criminal organizations whose primary motivation is profit. Gangs sometimes become "disciplined" enough to be considered "organized". The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the U.S. as racketeering.
Criminal organizations keep their illicit actions secret, and members communicate by word of mouth. Many organized crime operations have substantial legitimate businesses, such as licensed gambling, building construction, trash hauling or dockloading which operate in parallel with and provide "cover" for drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, extortion, hijacking, fraud and insider trading, among many other possible criminal activities.
In order for a criminal organization to prosper, some degree of support is required from the society in which it lives. Thus, it is often necessary to corrupt some of its respected members, which is most commonly achieved through bribery, blackmail, and the establishment of symbiotic relationships with legitimate businesses. People in the judiciary, police forces, and legislature are especially targeted for control by organized crime via bribes, threats, or a combination. Financing is made easier by the development of a customer base inside or outside the local population, as occurs for instance in the case of drug trafficking.
In addition, criminal organizations also benefit if there is social distrust of the government or the police. As a consequence, criminal organizations sometimes arise in closely-knit immigrant groups who do not trust the local police. Conversely, as an immigrant group begins to integrate into the wider society, this generally causes the organized crime group to weaken.
Lacking much of the paperwork that is common to legitimate organizations, criminal organizations can usually evolve and reorganize much more quickly when the need arises. They are quick to capitalize on newly-opened markets, and quick to rebuild themselves under another guise when caught by authorities.
Globalization occurs in crime as much as it does in business. Criminal organizations easily cross boundaries between countries. This is especially true of organized crime groups that engage in human trafficking.
The newest growth sectors for organized crime are identity theft and online extortion. These activities are troubling because they discourage consumers from using the Internet for e-commerce. Furthermore, e-commerce was supposed to level the playing ground between small and large businesses, but the growth of online organized crime is leading to the opposite effect; large businesses are able to afford more bandwidth (in order to resist denial-of-service attacks) and superior security.
Comparison to Legitimate Enterprises
There are at times little distinction between 'legitimate' organizations, and organized crime. For instance, corrupt businesses or non-democratic governments often bear strong resemblance to organized crime. Indeed, some have theorized that states are created from organized crime.
Organized crime distinguishes itself from other non-governmental organizations, through its ability to provide its own protection. A legitimate business relies on a government to enforce its contracts, while organized crime must rely only upon itself. When such institutions gain legitimacy they become governments.
Non-traditional organized crime
In addition to what is considered traditional organized crime involving direct crimes of fraud swindles, scams, racketeering and other RICO predicate acts motivated for the accumulation of monetary gain, there is also non-traditional organized crime which is engaged in for political or ideological gain or acceptance. Such crime groups include terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
Last updated: 10-11-2005 11:12:07