The concept of organized crime is often used in reference to illegal activities conducted by conspiratorial criminal groups or organizations with the goal of making money (Wright 12). Most of organized crime groups are structured in the pyramid shaped hierarchal business formats. These criminal organizations use violence and bribery to exercise control of their operations within and without the organization. This paper looks at the metamorphosing nature of organized criminals, their activities and the implications of organized crime on communities.
The Nature of Organized Crime
Organized criminal groups usually take part in diverse illicit income-generating activities such as prostitution, human and drug trafficking, organized unlawful immigration, and pornography (Wright 47). Other activities include terrorism, kidnapping for ransom, financial fraud, racketeering, computer crimes, and counterfeiting. With technological advancements and the Internet, criminal organizations are employing complex techniques to move huge amounts of money and illicit firearms through different countries without being detected by the law enforcement agencies.
Organized crime can be distinguished from other forms of crime (non-organized) by the systematized way in which the criminal activities are conducted, the way the processes are diversified into chains of supply, production and distribution, and the coordinated nature of the activities that involve numerous operatives. Organized criminal groups also have recognizable leadership structures. Most organized criminal groups are referred to as mafias, triads, cartels and syndicates. These groups do not entertain competition, and are often characterized by violent activities aimed at gaining or maintaining a monopoly of their core competencies.
The Changing Nature of Organized Crime
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, organized criminal groupings throughout the world register more than one trillion US dollars in yearly income (Wright 123). The criminal groupings are infiltrating legitimate business enterprises increasingly, which they use in money laundering and camouflaging their illegal activities. These businesses include construction firms and garbage collection companies.
Organized criminal groups are gradually diversifying and globalizing to adapt to changes in the international financial and law enforcement sectors. The mono-ethnic criminal organizations are becoming multi-ethnic and are spreading their operations across national borders. Although traditional organized criminal activities, such as human, firearm and drug trafficking, still comprise core financial activities of these groups, the criminals are gradually changing their focus to activities that involve little risk and have higher returns. These include counterfeit medicine and electronics, cybercrime, internet fraud, cigarette trafficking and credit card fraud.
Impact of Organized Crime on Economies
The economic implications of organized crime eclipse those of ordinary crime due to the scale on which the criminal activities are conducted. In the United Kingdom, for instance, organized criminal groups deprive the government of more than nine billion pounds annually through tax evasion and exercise duty fraud. In the US, cigarette trafficking by organized criminals denies federal governments of a cumulative sum of five billion dollars in the annual tax revenue.
In some countries, organized criminals influence food production, distribution and food security. This is often translated in inflated food and commodity prices and constant hoarding to manipulate the supply-and-demand economics. Other effects of organized crime include an influx of illicit drugs and counterfeit goods, extinction of valuable animals such as elephants, slavery of trafficked people, and genocides.
One way of dealing with organized crime is through proper training of law enforcement officers. The globalization of the criminal activities of organized gangs also requires governments and the law enforcement agencies to work together and share information that is likely to assist in the apprehension of the criminals. Since the organized criminal groups have hierarchal structures, it would help if law enforcers targeted their leadership in order to destabilize the organizations.
The intricate nature of organized crime poses several challenges to the law enforcement agencies throughout the world. With the structure, activities and implications of organized crime constantly changing, law enforcement agencies need to come up with ways of dealing with these changes. Consequently, intergovernmental cooperation and constant retraining of law enforcement officials will improve the fight against organized crime.
Wright, Alan. Organised Crime, Devon, UK: Routledge, 2013. Print.