Organized crime, in my view, occurs when two or more persons form a rational, ongoing conspiracy to commit crime for reasons such as the desire to make a profit or religious and political extremism. The term can therefore be described as a continuing criminal undertaking that rationally works to benefit from illegal activities through the use of force, intimidation, domination, and/or the corruption of public officials.
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This perception is supported in the literature by Albanese (2012), who also argues that the criminal enterprise might consist of two individuals engaged in a small-scale conspiracy, or a comprehensive network of individuals located in several countries but glued together by their intent to commit a multinational crime.
Several assumptions have been made in providing the definition of organized crime. For example, it has been assumed that a single offender has no capacity to plan and execute organized crime, that there must be a form of rational planning for organized crime to be successfully executed, and that organized crime offenders do not necessary seek to benefit financially from their criminal enterprise.
The personal description and perception of organized crime, in my view, is different from the descriptions found in the two books. For example, although Lyman and Potter (2007) agree that organized crime is a rational, ongoing conspiracy among two or more persons to commit a crime, they nevertheless argue that the most profitable forms of organized crime primarily focus on scams and schemes involving absolutely legal actions such as labor racketeering and extortion.
The distinctive feature, therefore, is embedded in the fact that it may be difficult to distinguish organized crime from other legal activities. In sampling the major similarity, however, it is evident that organized crime entails a rational, ongoing conspiracy because the authors agree that crimes of this nature are not just organized but well thought out and executed with the precise objective of evading detection.
The personal perception of organized crime is also different from the definition provided by Mallory (2007), although a few similarities can be noted. The author is of the opinion that a proper definition of organized crime “refers to acts that are both mala in se and mala prohibita, and includes detailed information about how these activities became organized” (Mallory, 2007 p. 3).
However, he acknowledges that there is no agreed upon definition of organized crime, hence persons, agencies and states dealing with this form of crime must take into account the structure, objectives for conspiracy, and characteristics of the group on a case-by-case basis.
In discussing the characteristics associated with organized criminal behavior, one of the underlying factors is that actors in organized crime may not necessarily be driven by profit gain. For example, Islamic terrorists commit crimes of an organized nature largely due to religious and political considerations. Another characteristic of organized criminal behavior is premised on the fact that two or more people must come together to form an ongoing conspiracy, with the view to executing crimes for whatever reasons.
Indeed, Albanese (2012) opines that “the vast majority of these offenses simply cannot be carried out effectively by lone offenders, by those who are not organized, or by those without contacts in other countries” (p. 3). For example, the transnational crime of child trafficking is committed by two or more people, who must have formed a rational, ongoing conspiracy to execute the crime across several countries.
Another defining characteristic associated with organized criminal behavior is that, in most instances, the actors in the criminal enterprise employ force, threats, and intimidation to protect markets, or disorient the social fabric by igniting fear among the populace. However, as suggested by Treadwell (2014), this trend is increasingly changing as more and more people engage in cybercrime. As a matter of fact, most cybercrimes are organized in nature and scope, but actors can perpetrate a crime against an individual several thousand miles away from them.
Other characteristics of organized crime include (1) a clear unit of command within a group, (2) principle of definition, which clearly defines authority and responsibility of members, (3) a span of control, (4) principle of objectivity, which defines the purpose of the organization or the business that is undertaken, (5) insulation and the need-to-know principle, which binds members to only contact their immediate boss and peers, (6) a pyramidal structure, whereby orders and important decisions are made at the top, (7) principle of specialization, which binds members to be experts in a single job function, and (8) strict adherence to rules (Mallory, 2012).
Overall, this paper has looked into the issue of organized crime from a personal perspective and also from the definitions provided in the readings. Additionally, the characteristics associated with organized criminal behavior have been well illuminated.
Drawing from this exposition, it is clear that no singular definition of organized crime will ever be developed; however, criminologists and other interested parties must learn to develop a consensus in defining this form of crime based on the nature and scope of the case as well as the distinctive features and characteristics of groups involved in organized crime.
Albanese, J.D. (2012). Deciphering the linkages between organized crime and transnational crime. Journal of International Affairs, 66(1), 1-16.
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Lyman, M.D., & Potter, G.W. (2007). Organized crime (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Mallory, S.L. (2012). Understanding organized crime (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Treadwell, J. (2014). Lush life: Constructing organized crime in the UK. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 53(1), 105-107.