Organized crime has often been branded as one of the most difficult types of crimes to deal with, and rightly so, given its nature. The extreme preparedness and structuring that goes into executing each criminal activity, as well as the number of people involved in an organized crime makes it difficult for the investigating authorities to apprehend the criminals involved therein.
According to Blacks Law dictionary, the most distinct feature of organized crime is the fact that it is extremely planned and systematic. It is never sudden as it involves many people acting in concert with the common intention of extracting huge amount of money by illegal means. The people involved, draw up a plan and execute the crime in accordance with that plan. See : (Blacks Law Dictionary, 2)
One characteristic feature of this form of crime is that it involves a large number of perpetrators and a large amount of money that is illicitly extracted (this is usually the most common motive and the end for which organized crime is the means). The organised nature of the crime is what makes it difficult to be brought under control. Moreover the sheer number of people involved in the crime makes it nearly impossible for the police administrators to apprehend them.
Another important feature of organized crime is that it is transnational. In the sense that, a gang that originates in one country could be active perpetrators of organized crime in many other countries. Infact, organized crimes are usually transnational in nature. Illegal extortion of money, in huge sums are usually cross-border transactions.
The nature of organized crime requires systematic and methodical execution of the crime. All the people involved, co-ordinate with the common intention of extorting money.
In order to better understand the nature of organized crime and the intricacies involved therein, the speculative theories that relate to organized crime need to be surmised.
According to Lyman and Potter (2007) the three most important theories of organized crime are: the alien conspiracy theory, the rational choice theory and the deterrence theory.
Alien conspiracy theory has its origin in the US. It is ethnic-based, in the sense that the propagators of this theory believe that the rising number of cases of organized crime is because of the influence of outsiders. It traces the origin of organized crime to 1860 in Sicily. It is, however, unnecessary to dwell on this theory, as it is a well-known fact that organized crime was prevalent in America even before its appearance in Sicily. (Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice)
The rational choice theory provides a realistic and rational approach to explaining organized crime. According to this theory every person is endowed with free will. This means that a person has the will to make any choice that is convenient to him. A person makes a choice that is most suitable to him. Though indulging in organized crime is risky insofar as the chances of getting caught are concerned, people still choose to commit it because among the available options it is the most convenient choice. For instance if a person is deep in debts and has no way or means of repaying the debts then, between going to jail for the non-payment of the debts and indulging in organized crime (which provides a good source money) rationality dictates a person to choose the latter. According to Richard Tewksbury (2014) this is where the rational choice theory applies to organized crime. Every person chooses the most rational choice in a given situation.
The rational choice theory is the theory that is best applied to organized crime. It explains why people behave in the manner that endangers their personal liberty.
This theory is at odds with the deterrence theory, according to which, the fear of punishment deters a person from committing a crime. (Grennan, Sean, and Marjie T. Britz)
Organized crime is statistically on the rise in the contemporaneous society. The nature of organized crime is such that it is transnational. It is a ‘borderless crime’. This is the first factor that makes it difficult for the authorities to apprehend the perpetrators. A crime that occurs in one country could be orchestrated in another country and it is very difficult to locate the origin of such a crime.
Second, the number of people involved in such a crime makes it even more difficult. The success of an organized crime depends on the coordinated efforts of all the people involved in the crime. It is only a large number of people that make organized crime a reality.
Third, the nature of organized crime itself, i.e. the fact that it is pre-planned and systematic makes it even more difficult for the authorities to crack because the perpetrators would have planned to avoid all possible means of being apprehended by the authorities.
Fourth, the nature and efficiency of the police administration plays a huge role. If the institution of police administration has corruption in its fabric then it boosts the attempts of organized criminals. Gangs engaged in organized crime have far-reaching contacts in the political set-up of a State and this makes its virtually impossible for them to be apprehended. This is very true in the case of developing countries or the third-world countries, where the social institutions are not strong enough to not be corruption-ridden.
According to Dimitri Vlassis (2009) another cause for increasing instances of organized crime is the improvement of technology. ‘High speed telecommunications’ make it easier for people indulging in organized crime to launder money across State borders with ease. The development of technology is a double-edged sword that has brought with it as many ills as good fortunes.
Apart from these reasons the laws of a State are usually inadequate in dealing with organized crime.
For instance, in the US, The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 introduced the provisions of detaining unmanageable witnesses and providing witness security to the witnesses whose life was in danger. A part of this Act led to the enactment of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute, which dealt more specifically with organized crime.
The RICO Statute prescribes both civil as well as criminal penalties for violating any provision of the Act. The criminal penalty imposes a fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for not more than 20 years. This is rather inadequate in dealing with organized crime. But, give the year of its enactment (1970) the soft nature of the provision is rational, as organized crime did not pose a major threat back then.
The Money Laundering Act of 1986 deals with money transaction in property derived from unlawful activities.
Despite there being specific laws that envisaged organized crime, these were not enough to bring organized crime under control. The reason being that more than laws that define and prescribe punishment for activities that would be construed as organized crime, what was more important was developing a strategy or a modus operandi for conducting the investigation.
This was materialized in the year 2007 The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime was developed by the US.
This strategy was to focus on the methods of combating organized crime, keeping in mind the transnational nature of the crime. (FBI, 2008)
This strategy was holistic in addressing the menace of organized crime, as it not only dealt with the method of apprehending the criminals, but also dealt with the various relationships established by these criminals with police officers and business - persons.
Though the Strategy was definitely a step in the right direction. It took a complete view of organized crime and laid down the need to take a re-look at the relations established by organized criminals.
However, this strategy too falls short of combating organized crime successfully. In order to combat organized crime, the following things need to be addressed first:
No strategy or Statute, no matter how holistic can help in combating organized crime, unless the social institution prevalent in the State is strengthened first. Corruption provides a fertile ground for the spread of organized crime. Corruption needs to be eliminated, at least at the police administration level in order to successfully combat organized crime.
The success and increased prevalence of organized crime can be attributed to the relations it establishes with the police and the business - persons. These relations need to be broken first.
Considering the transnational nature of organized crime, a global framework needs to be made. The countries where organized crime is common need to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to combat organized crime together.
A common framework among different countries would ensure uniformity in dealing with organized crime and would not give the perpetrators any window of opportunity to perpetrate the crime.
After ensuring this, the method as listed in the Strategy of 2007 would be adequate in ensuring the elimination of the instances of organized crime.
A form of crime that has developed and gained traction over the years will require meticulous planning and effective organization accompanied with elimination of corruption, in order to combat it.
The Law Dictionary, Blacks Law Dictionary, (2). Retrieved from http://thelawdictionary.org/organized-crime/
Lyman, M.D., & Potter, G.W., (2007). Organized Crime. (4th ed). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Retrieved from http://wps.pearsoncustom.com/wps/media/objects/6904/7070214/CRJ455_Ch02.pdf
Encyclopedia of crime and Justice (2002). The Gale Group. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/organized_crime.aspx
Tewksbury Richard (2014). Organized Crime Theories. Encycopedia of Theoretical Criminology. John Wiley & Sons.
Grennan, Sean, and Marjie T. Britz (2005). Organized crime: A worldwide perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Vlassis Dimitri (2009). Current Problems in the Combat of Transnational Organized Crime. 108th International Seminar Visiting Experts’ Paper. Retrieved from http://www.unafei.or.jp/english/pdf/RS_No54/No54_09VE_Vlassis.pdf
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (2008). National Press Release. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/department-of-justice-launches-new-law-enforcement-strategy-to-combat-increasing-threat-of-international-organized-crime