It is now generally acknowledged in criminology and criminal law that organized crime as constituted in contemporary contexts is perpetuated under the precepts of two broad-based models, namely bureaucratic and patron-client organizations (Van Dijk, 2007). It is important to note that a bureaucratic criminal enterprise is governed by a hierarchy with strict rules and regulations, while a patron-client network is grounded on the principle that the patron or “boss” provides aid and protection to a client, who then becomes a loyal and respected member of the enterprise (Mallory, 2007). This executive summary purposes to look into the similarities and differences between the two models of organized crime, and also to shed some light on why the models are essential in understanding organized crime.
Among the similarities, extant literature demonstrates that the two models of organized crime maintain structure and hierarchy of authority to effect discipline and control. Mallory (2007) cites Abadinsky (1985) to demonstrate that both models of organized crime must demonstrate defining characteristics, including non-ideological motives, continuity, use of tactical and strategic strategies to reach the goals of organized crime, employment of rules and codes of secrecy, organized hierarchy, use of force and intimidation, restriction of membership, creation of a division of labor with job specialization, and employment of corruption for immunity and control.
A major difference between the two models is that patron-client networks are defined by the fluid interactions they generate particularly in the context of operating as smaller units within the overall network, while bureaucratic networks are defined by the general rigidity of their internal structures (Lyman & Porter, 2007). Consequently, bureaucratic organizations are primarily targeted at using an elaborate hierarchy of command and control to achieve efficiency as the prime factor for large operations, while patron-client networks are normally based on bonds that tie the organization together (Mallory, 2007).
Another defining difference between the two models is that hierarchies of authority in patron-client networks are normally based on naturally forming family, social and cultural traditions, while those of bureaucratic organizations are grounded on meritocratic principles (Lyman & Porter, 2007). These two differences perhaps explain why members of a patron-client network can maintain a tightly-knit locus of operations which is hard for the police and other parties to detect or infiltrate.
Lastly, members in a bureaucratic criminal enterprise have no room for failure due to the strict rules of engagement involved, with available literature demonstrating that failure is met with severe penalties while success is met with rewards such as promotions and monetary incentives (Mallory, 2007). However, the patron-client model of organized crime is minimally centralized, implying that leaders have minimal control over members or other networks forming the enterprise.
Overall, it can be suggested that these models are important for understanding organized crime as they provide an avenue for law enforcers and other parties to strategize and plan on the type of effort that is needed to address the problem. For example, while the patron-client model requires a more complex law enforcement effort due to its decentralized activities and a huge number of social networks whose members may not be directly associated with each other, the bureaucratic model is more vulnerable to law enforcement attempts due to its inflexible chain of command, communication configuration, and intense involvement of the leader in criminal activity (Mallory, 2007).
Lyman, M.D., & Porter, G.W. (2007). Organized crime (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Mallory, S.L. (2007). Understanding organized crime. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Van Dijk, J. (2007). Mafia markers: Assessing organized crime and its impact upon societies. Trends in Organized Crime, 10(4), 39-56.