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Friday, September 3, 2010

Criminology - The Nature of Organized Crime and its Market


The term organized crime conjures up images of strong men in dark suits, machine gun-toting bodyguards, rituals of allegiance to secret organizations, professional killings, and meeting of family leaders who chart the course of crime much as the board members at the general motors decide on the country’s transportation needs. These images have become part of what the criminologists called Alien Conspiracy Theory concept of organized crime. Many also thinks that organized crime is a direct offshoot of a criminal society – Mafia – that first originated in Italy and Sicily and now controls racketeering in major US cities. A major premise of this theory is that the Mafia centrally coordinated by a national committee that settles disputes, dictates policy and assign territory. But now in the contemporary US, despite their growing involvement in securities fraud, there is hardly an Italian name in the FBI ‘most wanted’ list of targets.
Organized Crimes can be defined as the product of self perpetuating criminal conspiracy involving the ruthless exploitation of social, political and economic institutions of the society. The ingredient of this is basically violence, corruption, continuity and variety.
Organized criminals operated fairly locally, yet the activity to which they are a part can be global. Other countries serve as a channel as a source/transit routes for illegal and legal products to sell; as places to sell and use stolen goods and as places to hide or launder proceeds of crime. Thus, for market offences, there is a need to comprehend crime within a wider cross-national context of crime opportunities.
How the market originated? The first organized criminal gang comprised irish immigrants who made their home in the slum districts of New York city. The forty thieves, considered the New York gang with a definite, acknowledged leadership, were muggers, thieves and pickpockets on the lower east side of Manhattan from 1820s to just before the civil war. Around 1890, Italian immigrants began forming gangs modeled after the Sicilian crime organization known as Mafia; these gangs were called the Black Hand. After this, the different organizations started working professionally under the name Mafia. In December 1925, gang leaders from across the national met in Cleveland to discuss strategies for mediating their differences nonviolently and for maximizing profit. Then, in 1934, another meeting in New York led to the formation of a national crime commission and acknowledged the territorial claims of 24 crime families around the country. Under the leadership of national crime commission, organized crime began to expand in a more orderly fashion.
The tradition source of income of organized crime groups is derived from providing illicit, materials and using force to enter into and maximize profits in legitimate businesses. Annual gross income from criminal activity is at least $50 billion, more than 1% of the gross national product; some estimates put gross earning as high as $90 billion, outranking most major industries in the United States. Among advanced Industrial nations, the closest similarities to the ‘political coalition’ organizational model occur in Australia, where extensive narcotics, cargo theft and labor racketeering rings with ties to state level political and police were discovered during 1970s and 1980s; and in japan, where Yakuza and other racketeers specialize in vice and extortion, including Sokaiya – extortion by fear of embarrassment on the part of large corporations at their annual general meetings. Except for narcotics importers and wholesalers, cargo thieves who work at airports, and local vice, protection, and pornography syndicates, the historic events suggest that British and German ‘organized criminals’ tend to be relatively short – term groups drawn together for specific projects, such as fraud and armed robbery, from a pool of long – term professional criminals on a within – force or regional basis.
Basically, the organization of crimes results from the interaction of crime opportunities, offender and prospective offender skills and networks, and formal control efforts. It is thus a dynamic process that evolves as offender adapt to their changing environment, including facilities offered by the legal commercial environment, such as container lorries and ships, can repair firms, payment card issuers etc. There are many cases where crime networks adapt to police preventive tactics even in the course of one series of frauds; and the losses of drugs or excise-evaded shipments constitute mainly opportunity costs from which higher members of crime groups develop counter-intelligence strategies or just accept risks and losses of often females. In order to make profits, those who offer illegal goods and services must advertise, if only to selected ‘affinity groups’ derived from other sources and activities. This generally means that in the long run, the police will come to know about the criminality too. To ensure freedom from the law, unless they can rely on police tolerance without a financial motivation, the criminals must therefore subvert the police and/or the courts, and this is a major reason for concern about the impact of organized crime.
In predatory acts such as robbery, violence or its threat is a key element, and professional robbers – whether of commercial premises or of persons in the street – become highly skilled in dramaturgy. In market offences, violence occurs mostly in disputes over territory, or over proceeds of crime stored inb cash. In most Western societies, such violence is an artifact of the criminalization of popular goods and services; though elsewhere, extortion or ‘protection’ can take place where there is a weak state incapable of protecting its entire people from such threats and where criminals have the motivation and aptitude to make convincing threats. In all cases, violence is instrumental, but it can also be expressive of a need/wish to be shown ‘respect’.
Until the collapse of the USSR, and the subsequent cataclysmic effects, organized crime was essentially a domestic affair, even though transnational patterns were evident. Some states chose to see the phenomenon holistically, while others preferred to view each underlying offence in isolation from the organized nature of the group. Similarly, quest for international co-operation such as extradition and mutual legal assistance were made on the basis of underlying offence. The post-1990 era, with the advent of globalised trade and physical movement of persons, witnessed an increase in organize crime, originating especially from the former Eastern bloc, necessitating a different approach to the problem. Two factors have generally contributed to the eruption of organized crime at the dawn of the 21st Century:
1. the emergence of ‘weak’ states and
2. Corruption.
The former refers to the institutional capacity of States of govern legitimately, effectively administer justice and demand obeisance from the entire population. To the effect that the vast majority of South American States and Russia have been unsuccessful in achieving these ends, they are seen as ‘weak’. Corruption further exacerbates the situation; as does the ability of such groups to launder their criminal proceed in tax havens where banking regulations were relaxed. Since the early 1990s the UN General Assembly had detected the increase and expansion of organized criminal activity worldwide and made reference to the emergent links between organized crime and terrorism. At that point of time the most important problem for the police agencies was to stop the money laundering. Laundering is the cleansing of funds so that they can be used in a way indistinguishable from legitimate money. What most people appear to mean by money-laundering is the hiding of funds in accounts somewhere outside of the current surveillance capabilities of the enforcement agencies and/or professional intermediaries such a accountants, bankers and lawyers who may have a legal duty to sensitize themselves to laundering typologies and to report suspicion or ‘unusual’ transaction to the authorities. The organized criminals – ‘the great majority’, it appears- who make themselves popular with local car dealers, restaurateurs/publicans, and lovers by spending their money as they go along have no such problem.
UN prepared United Nations Conventions Against Transnational Organized Crime (CATOC) after a series of eleven sessions between 1999 and 2000. CATOC establishes four distinct offences under its conventions: -
1. participation in organized criminal groups;
2. money laundering;
3. corruption; and
4. Obstruction of justice.
The main purpose behind CATOC was the enhancement of co-operation between states, and the calls for assistance and co-operation were echoed by most developing countries, since organized crime was seen by many as a serious destabilizing threat. Co-operation has a twofold dimension in Conventions. First, law enforcement agencies are required to assist one another in general and specific terms, while the usual forms of co-operation are also provided, such as extradition and general and specific terms, while the usual forms of co-operation are also provided, such as extradition and mutual legal assistance, as well as more specialized measures, such as collection and exchange of information. Secondly, since the States are required to maintain adequate expertise in dealing with expertise in dealing with transnational organized crime, it is only developed countries that can afford to efficiently comply.

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