My personal perception of organized crime comes from movie enactments of Sicilian and Italian mafia, which portray it as the activities of a large group of criminals who join forces to plan and commit crimes. These criminals have one leader who instructs them on their activities and even makes decisions concerning the sharing of the loot. The gangsters make a large sum of money from peddling illegal drugs, setting up brothels where under-age girls are also prostitutes and harassing legal business owners for what they term as protection fees. Moreover, these gangsters manage to operate with little interference from the police because they often have the law enforcement authorities in their payroll. Organized crime also involves brutality and torture that often leads to the murder of people whom the gangsters disagree with. Finally, the gangsters involved in organized crime are territorial and are constantly at war with rival gangs for the powers to control certain territories.
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According to Paul Nesbitt of Interpol, organized crime refers to the dealings of any group that has a business-like structure whose main aim is to make monetary profits through engaging in illegal activities and thriving on corruption and fear. This definition concurs with my perception of organized crime because business structure must have a leader who controls the members’ activities. In addition, the illegal activities such as drug peddling enable the mafia to make huge profits that sometimes rise to billions of US dollars. Moreover, organized crimes thrive on corruption which tallies with my perception that the mafia often has the law enforcement authorities in their payroll through bribery. They also create fear in people such as the legal business owners who have to pay protection fees for their businesses to escape adverse insecurity caused by the mob. Failure to pay protection fees could lead to constant break-ins and damage of business property, which is a way of compelling the business owner to pay the money or risk running out of business (Cressey, 2008).
Schbenhart defines organized crime as complex and large-scale activity of criminals in a group for the participants’ enrichment without consideration of the community. Organized crime also flourishes through the ruthless disobedience of the law and connection to political forces. Organized crime being large-scale is the same as my perception of it comprising of a large group of criminals. However, this definition introduces a new angle to organized crime, which is in connection with political forces. This means that the mafia contributes to political campaigns to ensure that candidates of their choice get in into legislative offices to protect their interests. The mafia therefore remains untouched and continues to conduct organized crimes with little interference because their moles in the government give them early warnings concerning investigation (Schbenhart, 1999).
According to Cressey, the term organized crime denotes the illegal activities of a well-organized association that has discipline. This definition introduces an angle of discipline among mobsters that is absent in my perception of organized crime. The fact that mobsters take orders from their leader, attend to assigned duties with no objection and maintain secrecy shows that they posses high levels of discipline. They adhere to the rules of the association, which attach to family values, gender roles, religion and cultural expectations. Moreover, any mobster going against these rules risks punishment by way of torture or even murder (Cressey, 2008).
Organized criminal behaviour has some common characteristics associated with it, which can help in identification and differentiation from unorganized crime. These characteristics include strategized criminal behaviour. This means that organized criminal behaviour is not random and seems to have a plan therefore follows a particular pattern. In addition, organized criminal behaviour rakes in large amounts of profits, which enable the criminals to earn lots of money. The money that they earn can run into billions of US dollars sometimes. Organized criminal behaviour also shows by a diverse range of activities. These activities cut across production of goods, supply and retail of the same. However, the legitimate business activities are mere cover-ups for the criminal activities and are for money laundering (Cressey, 2008).
The chase for power is characteristic of organized criminal behaviour. The mobsters pursue power and control of regions such that they become territorial. This comes out during battles over territories with rival gangs, which often leads to murder. This is because mobsters involved in organized crime cannot put up with the competition and aspire to monopolize activities in particular regions. Additionally, organized criminal behaviour exudes a platform of operations that are within regions, nations or cross-national borders. Activities within the region and nations could include illegal gambling, kidnapping people for ransom, prostitution and pornography while those that cross the borders could be smuggling, human and drug trafficking. Finally, organized criminal activity is under identifiable leadership. For example, the Gambino family in New York operated with orders from their leader, John Gotti (Schbenhart, 1999).
The mafia, syndicate, mobs or triads are groups that take part in organized crimes to make monetary benefits. They are involved in illegal activities such as kidnappings, money laundering, drug and human trafficking among others. Moreover, they display various common characteristics such as strategized criminal behaviour, monetary profits, power struggles with rival gangs and identifiable leadership among others. These shared characteristics can help to differentiate between unorganized crimes and the organized crimes.
Cressey, F. (2008). Theft of the Nation: The Structure and Operations of Organized Crime in America. New York: Transaction Publishers.
Schbenhart, D. (1999). Organized Crime and the Business of Migrant Trafficking. Crime, Law, and Social Change , 3-22.