Organized crime has been defined as illegal acts committed by a criminal organization or group. The NCIS (2005) described organized crime as having 4 salient attributes: (1) organized crime group contains at least three people; (2) the criminal activity the group engages in is ongoing and indefinite in duration; (3) the group is motivated by a desire for profit or power; and, (4) the group commits serious criminal offenses (Lynman & Potter, 2007). There are different categories of organized criminal behavior. They include the provision of illicit services, provision of illicit goods, conspiracy to commit crime, penetration of legitimate business, extortion, and corruption.
Illicit services are services that legitimate business do not provide. These services include but are not limited to gambling that is illegal, protection rackets, loan sharking, and prostitution. Illicit goods are also not available not available from legitimate businesses. Illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin are examples of illicit goods. Unregistered guns and stolen property are also examples of illicit goods.
Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to violate the law. Conspiracy is a vital category of organized criminal behavior. Organized crime members often work together for the purpose of making money. They work together to sell drugs, stolen property, loan sharking, gambling, prostitution and other illegal activities they have going on within their organization.
Organized crime organizations have no legal way to spend their profits so they must hide their revenue. They do this by penetrating legal businesses. Many of these crime organizations have businesses such as construction and contractors. Extortion is another category of organized crime. Many organized crime organizations use extortion to infiltrate legitimate businesses. Extortion is the use or threatened use of violence or force to achieve a criminal end (Lynman & Potter, 2007). Corruption is also a category of organized crime. Many of these organized crime groups could not flourish if it wasn’t for for the aid of pubic and private figures such as police officers, judges, prosecutors, mayors, bankers, attorneys, and elected and appointed officials.
Organized crime groups have different hierarchies. There is the standard hierarchy in which there is a single organized crime group which is led by a single powerful individual. These organizations have clearly defined roles, a readily identified chain of command, and a hierarchy that is designed to provide a strong system of internal discipline. Then there is the regional hierarchy. These hierarchies are tightly controlled groups with strong systems of internal discipline and clearly defined roles and lines of authority.
Next there’s the clustered hierarchy. This is an organized crime group that involves a number of smaller organized crime groups that coordinate their activities and enterprises. There is also a core group. This is an unstructured group of organized criminal surrounded by a larger network of individuals engaged in serious criminal activity. Finally, there’s the criminal network. Criminal networks are loosely organized, highly adaptable, very fluid of networks of individual participants who organize themselves around ongoing criminal enterprise (Lynman & Potter, 2007).
The perception I had of organized crime is different from what I read in week one. Before this week, I always associated the Mob or the Mafia with organized crime. I think this comes from the movies and television shows that I have watched. I described organized crime as a group of people working for a “boss” to break the law. I thought that there was one head and people reported to him. I did not know that there were different categories of organized crime. I always associated drug trafficking and murder for hire as organized crimes. The readings have helped me to understand what organized crime really is and who is or can be involved. Before now, I would have never associated corruption or extortion with organized crime.
I ultimately believed that this was something that was made up for movies and TV shows such as The Godfather, Scarface, The Sopranos, and The Wire. Before watching The Wire, I only associated Italians with organized crime. The characteristics I believe are associated with organized criminal behavior varies. First, all members of the organization are expected to live by a certain set of rules or a code. They should protect the organization and do what is asked of them by the leaders. I thought the characteristics of organized criminal behavior were similar to that of a gang. The people involved in organized crime may not wear a certain color or live in a certain area but they have the same goal in mind. Protect the group by any means necessary. They have to be loyal to the group, do what they are told by someone else, and do what it takes to make money or a profit for the group.
After this first week of class my views on organized crime has changed drastically. I now have a better understanding of what organized crime is and a more knowledge on organized criminal groups. I can let go of all of the stereotypes I may have had and now understand that organized criminal organizations have one goal in mind, make a profit for the organization no matter if it is financial or political.
Lyman, M., & Potter, G. (2007). Understanding Organized Crime. Organized Crime (Fourth ed., pp. 1-38). New York: Pearson Education.