- Introduction: International Crime and Security
Historically, transnational crime was analyzed primarily as a law and order problem rather than an issue of international security. Today, transnational crime has become a threat to the sovereignty of governments, reliability of financial institutions, and the functioning of democracy. For this matter, transnational crime graduates from its accustomed place of a national phenomenon and becomes a global security issue that requires an international approach to tackle. The seriousness of transnational crime is apparent. Transnational crime is cancer that is eating the legitimacy of some states. Because of its cancerous nature to the wellbeing of some states, there is a need to streamline ways in which states deal with transnational crime. Re-examination of the ways in which the states conceptualize crimes in terms of its reasons for growth, prevention and, effectiveness of the methods used to fight crime is required. Canada, long held as an island of peace is no exception to the effects of transnational crime. Let examine crime in Canada in relation to the Asian organized crime.
ii. History of Organized Crime in Canada: Case Study of Chinese Gangs
Asian organized crime is not new to Canada. It is a known fact that Chinese merchants in Vancouver were known for some of the largest opium smuggling and human trafficking rings during the first half of the twentieth century. Canada’s first Chinatown was home to illegal gambling halls, brothels, and opium dens. Most of this illegal business was controlled by leading Chinese Merchants. Members of the Chinese gangs were controllers of the extortion rings in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal as well as prostitution rings, human trafficking, drug smuggling and others. By 1970s, a combination of Chinese street gangs emerged, first through the supply of heroine in North America, and then through human smuggling. Before long, Chinese drug traffickers had overtaken French, Italian, and Turkish international crime connections (Schneider, 2009).
Perhaps one of the most famous human smuggling rings in Canada is the snakeheads. The Snakeheads are Chinese gangs that are engaged in illegal immigration of people from China to wealthier nations across the world. The name snakehead arises from the “image of slithering from point to point along “clandestine routes”. The group gained notoriety in 1990s when they established upon existing drug routes and illegal immigration routes. Snakeheads originated from Fujian region of China. Snakeheads differ on structures and methods of operations across different countries in terms of organization and methods of operation (Friman, 1998). The Chinese word for snakehead is shetou (Keef, 2006). There is no available information about the number of snakeheads. It is hard to estimate the number of people smuggled by “snakeheads” from China to the United States. This is because illegal immigrants are not counted in any census. In 1994, there were about 100,000 Fujianese living in New York City, and an additional 10,000 entering each year (Ueheling,2008).
Rather than a solitary smuggling system, snakehead groups exist at numerous forms of the illegal migration process--local, national, international, and host country. They also vary in size and capability. Snakeheads have been found in China, Japan, USA, and Canada among other countries. Mafias in Italy and Japan. They crammed in plains, cars, and trucks with fake floors or would be shipped for months. They also use false identities such as fake passports and purport as business delegations and tour groups as a way of beating immigration controls (Keefe, 2012). International consciousness, arrests, Sister Ping was arrested was convicted of human trafficking in 1993. She was later arrested in China in 200. In 2006, US authorities said they were imprisoning Sister Ping for 35 years for her role in the Golden Venture incidence that killed many illegal immigrants in New York (Baits, 2009).
iii. Causes of International Crime: Is it solvable?
International crime, in my view, is possibly a function and a consequence of poverty. Poverty plays a fundamental role in not only legitimizing crime but also making crime a necessity for survival. Whereas technological expansion, availability of the market, and efficient international network for illegal materials fuel crime, the driving engine for crime is the failure of some states to provide human security. Human security encompasses personal security manifested in the wellbeing of an individual. Aspects of human security include food security, health security, and job security amongst others. The weakness or unreliability of a state creates an opportunity for poverty because of limited opportunities. This makes the population to be vulnerable to consider crime as an option. Insecurity is likely in areas that are underdeveloped economically. In such areas, criminals replace the state as the source of human security in the forms of jobs and security. The Nigerian Mafia is an example of a criminal gang that has used poverty as a way of legitimizing its actions and winning a chunk of hopeless Nigerian youth. Poverty is in this case a function of the failure of the states to provide for the citizens in matters most relevant (Hough, 2004).
States that are poor economically but rich in resources are likely to be unstable. The instability creates room for insecurity. Criminals make use of instability to marshal support and organize networks. Instability makes accessing technology and resources to be possible for criminals. With the available technology, poor but ambitious youth get training to become sophisticated criminals while earning some cash as rewards. The available market for illegal goods and services in the global arena makes the trade in the illegal goods lucrative. Moreover, corruption in such state’s government enables the criminal gangs to maneuver through the justice system if they are caught. Instability of the state creates an environment for criminals to control drug trafficking, cultivation, production, and trade in natural resources without interference from the states. For example, the dismantling of the USSR in 1989 led to the formation of loosely controlled borders that are prone to criminal activities arising from the government’s inability to staff these border areas.
Poverty creates desperation on the people. There is the desire to move from one area to another by the use of any means available. Human traffickers use the poor’s desperation to force them into human trafficking cartels in the hope of finding a better life in the developed countries. Most of the time, the poor in the less developed states are unaware that they are initiated into a complex and interconnected web of criminals that thrive on the suffering of others. Because of the promise of a better life and the lure of living in a developed world, the poor people simply agree to sign documents that are tying and makes them properties instead of people. Human trafficking is thus an example of how poverty is critical in the development of international crime.
With increased awareness of the internalization of crime, there have been attempted methods to combat transnational crime by ways international police systems. Because of the fluidity of international criminals, it was easy for criminals to avoid capture by moving from one country to another. The international community devised an international police system called the Interpol that would be responsible for international crime. The Interpol was established in 1923 and boasts of a membership of 179 countries across the world. They share information by having a common database for international crime involving stolen goods. This helps in speeding up the process extradition of criminals. The Interpol is thus the only global police force that has been given the mandate to help in tackling crimes that occur across the borders. However, the Interpol faces two challenges. First, it bases its premise on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while avoiding to take a political role in any issue. The institution faces problems when it has to deal issues of racism, prejudice of member countries. How does it deal with a state having issues of human rights violations? Second, the Interpol has a limited budget to conduct its operations since it bases on the contributions of its member countries. This limited budged limits the possibility of having a viable international police force to tackle international crime.
Another effort used to combat international crime is the use of the Europol as a continental police force in all the twenty-seven member states of the European Union. In 1990s, the Europol was founded to combat drug trafficking in the European Union. Europol has grown to become a central agency in law enforcement, in Europe today. The Europol is tailored to combat international crimes and terrorism, but its niche is thwarted by political nature of the organization. There is the possibility of issues in the European to be politicized. When this happens, the issues become subject of votes thus limiting law enforcement.
Scholars, law enforcement, and ordinary citizens admit that gangs have a damaging effect on the community and its residents. Gangs increase violence courtesy of gun sales, drug sales, car theft as well a general drop in the quality of life thanks to high rate of school dropout. While the effect of gang activities is not necessarily new to law enforcement, tackling gang violence and incriminating suspects requires value-added policing techniques. First, even as law enforcement engages in problem oriented policing for gang violence, there should be emphasis in community policing. Members of gang groups must be understood from the background such as family, neighborhood, psychological problems as well as lack of opportunity. Existing research has done very little in highlighting concrete solutions towards the problem of gang violence. However, researches undertaken continue to show that full-fledged gang membership is a gradual process and there are different problems of affiliation. Stronger affiliation with a gang is directly indicative of higher level of criminal behavior. In short, it is accurate to admit that based on previous research, gang problem is a difficult to crack down on. However, should this be the reason to lose hope?
Because of the nature of the nature of international crime, police forces dealing with international crime a difficult task. Perhaps because international crime is a human security issue and applying hardcore state mechanism do not solve the root causes. A new strategy needs to be developed by the states that focus on the improvement of human life at the grassroots and realizing economic development. I think the best way to deal with crime is to empower people, distribute resources equally, and create a society that is productive and fair. This will be a long time project, but it will pay dividends better than state machineries that arrests the victims instead of healing the problem. Transnational crime undermines national and international security as well as disrupting the health of social and economic developments of nation-states. Dealing with transnational crime involves much more that policing and law enforcements, it involves fighting the basic human problem of poverty.
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