Comparative Perspective on Organized Crime
According to studies, organized crime is identified as an activity that is identical with corruption, extortion, murder, manipulation, and terror; it is a long-term involvement in carrying out illegal activities according to one’s own will. Citing Lavey (1990), Mahan and O’Neil stated that organized crimes are actions with divisions of labor and are aimed towards acquiring large amounts of profit in the quickest time possible. Abadinsky (1994) noted that crime groups that perform organized crimes have the following characteristics (cited in Mahan & O’ Neil, 1998, p. xi-xii): (1) non-ideological, which means that their primary motivation is to gain financial profit; (2) hierarchal, wherein each group follows a pyramid organization with a few elite members and various agents, and in between each level, there are midlevel gangsters who support the whole organization by being responsible for handling supplies and security; (3) have limited (if not exclusive) membership, which means that each member adheres to the secrecy and loyalty as promised to the group; (4) prolong its existence through the recruitment process where new members assigned in the level of operatives; (5) exercise illegal violence and bribery in order to carry out a task and live in the essence of corruption and deceit; (6) are structured with division of labors and carry out tasks with each member having different experiences and talents which, when combined together, could fulfill the goal of the organization; (7) monopolistic, where market control is practiced since the primary goal of the organized crime group is to acquire more profits; and (8) follow rules and regulations, practiced by every member through the aid of their code of honor.
Two of the most notable organized crime organizations are the Hells Angels and the Sicilian Mafia. Both the Sicilian Mafia and Hells Angels have been around for a long period of time. They are the original among their contemporaries. Sicilian Mafia in the island of Sicily began in the second half of the nineteenth century and is said to be the oldest among the four Mafias present in Italy (Sicilian Mafia, 2008). Meanwhile, the Hells Angels was formed in San Bernardino, California in 1948 and is the oldest motorcycle club in the world (“The Hells Angels,” 2008).
The term Mafia was used to describe the powerful families in the Sicily region who were associated with violent activities in order to gain control in the local region’s economic activity. However, the Sicilian Mafia preferred to be called as the Costa Nostra which means “our thing.” This particular Mafia involves 186 families, 67 of which are found in Palermo. Each family member of the Sicilian Mafia is claiming sovereignty over vast lands in the area where he or she resides (Sicilian Mafia, 2008). On the other hand the term Hells Angels was extracted from World War Two’s toughest bomber group of the United States. According to researches, the name Hells Angels is used as a mark by the organization because it represents the toughest among the tough. At present, the organization is functioning in 29 countries (“The Hells Angels,” 2008).
The organizational structure of the Sicilian Mafia, as well as the organization’s secret rituals, was patterned according to the confraternities of the catholic and freemasonry. Likewise, some of the customs and familial traditions of the said mafia are carried out as “military-religious” orders. The hierarchy of the organization is divided into three groups: the cupola which consists of the board of directors, caporegime who are said to be the head or bosses of individual families, and the soldiers (Sicilian Mafia, 2008). On the other hand, the Hells Angels’ organizational structure is similar in the US Army. Ranks are given to each member, and every leader holds a qualified position according to hi or her skills. In addition, the Hells Angels also applies an organizational structure which is similar to the presidential structure of the US where in there is a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, and sergeant at arms (“The Hells Angels,” 2008).
Sicilian Mafia and Hells Angels both practice limited memberships. In the case of Sicilian Mafia, the membership of the organization is limited to family members, and prospective members who are not nobility are placed in the positions that support the Sicilian Mafia. As such, every member of the Mafia must adhere to the strict code of silence that reigns over the organization. Once an individual becomes a member of the Sicilian Mafia, he or she would be in the organization for life, and the only way of escape is through death (Sicilian Mafia, 2008).
On the other hand, the Hells Angels requires each of its prospect members to have a sponsoring member who would be responsible in handling the said prospective member. The decision for the acceptance in the probationary status would only be possible if the prospect is nominated by a senior member and received votes from other members to be accepted in the said status. Moreover, the ceremony is not an easy task, for the prospect would have to undergo various activities that are degrading and involves crime. Once the member is admitted, he or she is then allowed to own and wear the club’s color which is said to be the highest possession of any of the organization’s member and must own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The individual is also required to take part in two major runs which are the July run and Labor Day run (Abadinsky, 2003 cited in “The Hells Angels,” 2008).
Subsequent activities of both organizations are against the law, but they created various “Robin Hood” activities in order to cover up their immoral or wrong actions. The organizations were able to escape the devastations they have created. The Hells Angel was known to acquire their profit through drug trafficking. According to studies, the said organization has a substantial control in the market of the US for long periods of time. They are responsible for trafficking methampethamine, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and PCP. Moreover, the group is also engaged in prostitution, extortion, and fraud (Abadinsky, 2003, n.p. cited in “The Hells Angels,”, 2008, n.p.). Sicilian Mafia, on the other hand, was known for bribery, kickback, and theft by politician members. In recent years, the organization has been responsible for murdering ordinary people who come along their way. The entire economic sectors of Sicily are controlled by Mafia members. Public contracts are exchanged by managers or politicians to the Sicilian mafia in exchange for kickbacks and bribes. Money, narcotics trafficking are also some of the activities accounted to the Sicilian Mafia (Mafia, 2008).
Evidently, both Hells Angels and Sicilian Mafia created a deep impact in the regions where they have originated. The activities that they have carried out are seen as a threat to the interests of ordinary citizens. Moreover, the pattern of crime that the organizations performed was purely based on acquiring financial profit through violence. Without properly addressing the growth of the members of both organizations, there is a great possibility that their activities would continue. It is suggested that further analysis regarding the organizations should be taken into consideration in order to address the issues that were not regarded in this paper.
Mahan, S. & O’ Neil, K. (1998). Beyond the Mafia: Organized crimes in the Americas. California: Sage.
The Hells Angels – Dynamics of organized crime. (2008). Free online research papers. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.freeonlineresearchpapers.com/hells- angels-organized-crime.
The Mafia. (2008). Best of Sicily. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.bestofsicily.com/mafia.htm.
Sicilian Mafia. (2008). Gang Land. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.gangland.net/sicilian.htm.