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The UN Definition of Transnational Organised Crime
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) is an international convention that deals with organised crime. In this section, it is crucial to note that the convention does not provide a precise definition of transnational crimes. According to Sergi (2014), this omission was done deliberately to acknowledge the evolving nature of crimes that constantly emerge over time due to changes in local, national, regional, and global conditions.
While a transnational crime implies illegal actions and the breaking of law across borders or between two or more countries, the UN Convention has not made an effort of listing the type of crimes for the same reasons of the diverse and ever-changing nature of crimes. However, the convention has defined the nature of any organised criminal group in Article 2(a). In the definition, an organised criminal group must meet four important characteristics.
Firstly, it must be made up of three or more people who did not come together randomly. Secondly, the group must have been in existence for a substantial period (Wright 2013). Additionally, the group must be acting together to commit at least one crime that is punishable by not less than four years of imprisonment. Its aim is to obtain, directly and indirectly, financial or other material benefits. From the above traits, the reader may categorically regard transnational organised crime as a threat to the peace and stability of nations. In fact, such crime undermines social, cultural, political, and economic development of societies in the world.
As Clinard, Quinney, and Wildeman (2014) reveal, crimes in this category manifest themselves in many ways such as the trafficking of firearms, drugs, and individuals. Additionally, other organised crimes include money laundering and the smuggling of immigrants. As a result, the fight against transnational organised crimes requires the corporation of law enforcement agencies across borders to pursue, apprehend, and lock down criminals.
In the fight against transnational crime, it is important for law enforcement agencies to understand the type of networks that the criminal groups establish. For instance, such arrangements may be categorised into standard hierarchy or loose criminal networks. One may wonder why understanding the type of organised criminal groups’ network is critical from a law enforcement perspective.
In simple terms as Le (2012) clarifies, being aware of the networks determines whether the law enforcement agency should focus on the group or the criminal activities. According to the UNTOC, the five ideal types of criminal organisations include the standard, regional, clustered, core group, and criminal networks. However, it is vital to mention that while the above hierarchies are the ideal ones, not all criminal groups fit into the categorisation (Leong 2016). Nonetheless, many groups will have one or more characteristics of one of the criminal networks. Therefore, understanding the nature of the organised criminal group is very critical in determining the approaches and resources that law enforcement agencies will use to fight a crime.
A standard hierarchy is a single organised criminal group led by a solitary person who has immense power over the other members. Such organisations have clearly defined roles, a chain of command, and structures, which are designed to guarantee strong internal discipline among members. They also have a strong sense of ethnic and social identity (Sergi 2014). The law enforcement organ should target the group members and most importantly, the leaders.
Through this well-calculated approach, the group can easily disintegrate since members become disillusioned and with poor motivation when their leaders are no longer available to provide guidance (Clinard, Quinney & Wildeman 2014). Additionally, law enforcement agencies can focus their resources on disintegrating the group by breaking it up, for instance, by locking down members and leaders.
In a regional hierarchy, the groups have similar characteristics as the standard chain of command. However, groups in a regional hierarchy cover a wider section with a degree of decentralisation of power where their local affiliates have a considerable authority over the area. However, the groups still have a leader who is in charge across the board. According to Le (2012), due to their larger nature, regional hierarchy groups have a higher capacity of committing transnational crimes. Consequently, understanding this typology is important since it allows law enforcement bodies to engage more resources while not only targeting the overall leaders but also individual local groups affiliated to the larger criminal organisation.
In the clustered hierarchy, the criminal organisation is made up of several groups that have a high degree of autonomy. Such clusters organise their criminal activities independently, although they pledge allegiance to the overall group. It is critical to assert that targeting such groups is not easy since each cluster can run on its own without the input of the overall leaders. From a law enforcement viewpoint, fighting such groups entails dismantling and targeting each cluster rather than the overall organisation.
The core group is an unstructured set of organised criminals. This category is characterised by a lack of hierarchy. Power in the group, which is shared among members, presents one of the most difficult networks for law enforcement bodies (Sergi 2014). The network represents the 21st-century criminal groups, which are highly flexible and adaptable. According to Wright (2013) and Leong (2016), individuals’ skills such as financial, technological, or political connections in the group determine the importance or the part that each member should play. Hence, it is vital for the reader to understand that fighting such group is nearly impossible. As a result, law enforcement bodies target eliminating the most important individuals in the group.
In conclusion, the various typologies of criminal groups are an important tenet of fighting organised transnational crimes. The typologies allow law enforcement groups to determine the approaches that they will use to fight the groups or the criminal activities. In the standard and regional hierarchy, the main approach involves focusing on the leaders and dismantling the groups. In the clustered hierarchy, the focus of law enforcers is to fight the major individual clusters, as well as the overall leaders. In the core and criminal network, the complexity of such groups leads organisations to fight the criminal activities while targeting the most resourceful persons.
The UN Definition of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a highly profitable crime and a widespread enterprise. The United Nations’ definition of human trafficking involves two important tenets, which are the trafficking and smuggling. According to Kempadoo, Sanghera, and Pattanaik (2015), the difference between the two concepts is on the consent of individuals. In the case of smuggling, the individuals involved or those being transported from one country to another usually consent to the crime.
In many cases, it is important to point out that they pay to be smuggled across the borders to other countries. However, according to Ahn et al. (2013), the UN definition categorically acknowledges that in the case of trafficking, individuals are transferred to other countries against their will through intimidation, kidnapping, deception, and fraud among other unsolicited means. Consequently, as revealed in this section, while smuggled individuals are willing partners and parties to the crime, trafficked people have not consented or they have been deceived to consent to be moved illegally to other countries.
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Human trafficking is a complex crime to fight because it deals with humans rather than products. In this case, since it involves border protection where law enforcers at the border are at times involved in allowing the criminal activity to continue, it becomes an “invisible” business where minimal data and information of the criminal activities is made accessible to the relevant agencies (Perkins 2015). Since victims are in new countries, they may be easily brainwashed into believing that approaching the law enforcement agencies will only lead to incarceration (Ahn et al. 2013).
On the other hand, smugglers often use coercive power and other intimidative techniques, including threats, killing those who do not cooperate, and other lethal means to ensure the silence of the victims. In other cases, according to Kempadoo, Sanghera, and Pattanaik (2015), stereotypes relating to the victims of trafficking make it difficult to report or seek assistance from local authorities. For instance, women are perceived to be more trafficked relative to men.
However, while this claim may be true, it is crucial to clarify that many men have been victims of trafficking. As such, male victims are likely to remain in the captivity of their traffickers for a long time without the intervention or detection of the law enforcement agencies. All these factors contribute to the “invisibility” of the victims.
The above issues lead to major challenges in the fight against the human trafficking, with many victims remaining without assistance for a long period. From a critical point of view, issues such as the widespread nature of the crime and the overwhelming lack of information may make the situation an interesting challenge to the law enforcement agencies since information is lacking, despite their willingness to fight the crime (Weitzer 2014).
Hence, there is the need for better crime detection and legal avenues of detecting and fighting the invisibility of human trafficking. Consequently, such steps will require guidelines and laws that will facilitate cross-border cooperation, as well as reducing the victimisation of those who turn themselves to local authorities to seek assistance (Perkins 2015). In some countries, victims of trafficking often end up in jail. However, this situation follows the lack of legal frameworks to differentiate victims of human trafficking from illegal immigrants (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik 2015). Consequently, without such laws, the invisibility of human trafficking will only continue to increase, thus making it harder for the crimes to be reduced globally.
Conclusively, as discussed above, human trafficking presents a complex transnational crime, which is very difficult to fight. Despite its widespread nature, it is not easy to detect and fight. The main reason for this difficulty is the invisibility of victims who often go unnoticed for a long period. As such, putting in place new legal frameworks towards detecting the crime, as well as reducing the victimisation of people by law enforcement agencies presents the best opportunity to fight the global vice.
The Problem of Drug Trafficking as a Geo-political Issue
Drug trafficking is a lucrative crime that is highly transnational. It is the most well paid misdemeanour, which has the highest network and interconnections between criminal groups across the world (Boivin 2015). Indeed, the lucrativeness of the crime is evident in countries such as America where drug trading is a $94 billion industry, larger than the meat industry at $52.5 billion and other sectors such as cereals and tobacco products (Mejía & Restrepo 2016). Hence, in this section, drug trafficking can be analysed as a geo-political issue, which requires the input and cooperation of different countries to fight the problem.
The demand for drugs across borders means that criminal groups are highly motivated to transport illegitimate materials to new markets to increase their profitability (Martin 2014). Additionally, the high amount of money involved in the trade means that gangs have adequate resources to not only buy their way across borders but also to procure their freedom once arrested. Hence, Carpenter (2014) offers a strategic advice concerning such scenarios.
He points to the need for unrelenting cooperation among countries to fight the crime Carpenter (2014). In many instances, drugs are produced in one country and sold in another. As long as discrepancies prevail across borders concerning the efforts to fight the crime, individual nations have little influence on the problem. Cooperation between countries means that drug trafficking can be fought from the source, along the borders, as well as in the destination countries (Boivin 2015).
Drug trafficking organisations often have widespread networks across countries. As a result, fighting such groups requires nations and law enforcement agencies to share intelligence and resources towards addressing the problem. On the other hand, from a critical perspective, there is the need for countries to cooperate in the establishment of legal frameworks that will guarantee effective prosecution of individuals. As Mejía and Restrepo (2016) observe, if discrepancies are witnessed in the legal frameworks, some countries are likely to promote drug crime through lenient laws, which will water down any progress that other countries with tough laws may have put in place.
The willingness of the political class to support the crime is an important area of cooperation between countries (Boivin 2015). Working closely together ensures that countries understand the magnitude of the problem, thus dedicating more resources to supporting efforts against drug trafficking. Additionally, when the different countries are fighting the vice, drug traffickers then lack a safe haven for the activities, thus increasing pressure on drug groups to stop or reduce their activities.
In conclusion, fighting against drug trafficking is a geopolitical issue, which requires collaboration among countries. The crime is highly transnational, with producers in one nation and markets on another. The engagement of various countries paves the way for the sharing of information, streamlining efforts to fight the crime, and allowing adequate allocation of resources. Close cooperation between countries also ensures political commitment to the fight against the crime, thus allowing law enforcement agencies to have a similar understanding and dedication to addressing the vice. Without such cooperation, drug trafficking can only increase, hence attracting more related crimes across countries.
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