Organized crime is often connoted with the mafia, norco cartels and the mob. However, each of these organizations are designed and operate differently, allowing various power structures, incentives and members to stir it. The sophistication that surrounds these often, global organizations usually uproots stereotypical understandings of criminality. Criminal networks are not only expanding at exponential rates but are also diversifying into unprecedented categories and factions. Due to these details, defining and analyzing organized crime is a challenge.
Over time the media as well as “countless investigation and governmental studies [were] convinced that organized crime is primarily dominated by one specific organization. But in reality, scholars have come to find out that, contrastingly most enterprises are composed of various groups, both ethnic and transnational and they do this in order to operate with one another as well as collaborate with business owners and politicians. Michel D. Lyman offers a comprehensive view on the details in his book Organized Crime. It is through his illustrations regarding their complexities that an informed discussion can manifest.
The tendency to oversimplify organized crime and gloss over the various characteristics is common. Unfortunately, it allows for misunderstandings and ignorance to fester. Another aspect that creates complications is the form in which many of these crimes are carried out. For instance, in an organization that relies on a “standard hierarchy” to achieve their goals will look to a “single powerful individual.” In these particular groups, internal discipline and a chain of command is almost entirely linear. A “criminal network” on the other hand, is arguably the most lethal. They are “loosely organized, highly adaptable [with] very fluid networks of individual participants who organize themselves around an ongoing criminal enterprise” (p.19). The more secular and globalized any one group is usually determines their ability to transcend the traditional, rigid safeguards put in place. When networks can easily collapse, reform and reemerge in different skin, law enforcement is constantly left one step behind every time.
Organized crime is no new phenomenon. Its history and evolution solidify the intricacies that organized crime is composed of. Specifically, a close look at how the Southern states as opposed to the Northern states gives a detailed account on how a refined criminal perspective is necessary. In the fourth chapter, Lyman provides a timeline that helps illustrate these transformations. Although both regions relied on political corruption in order to secure more power, the South was able to take certain strategies from the north to fit their forms of society. More importantly though, is that the south had access to crime that the North had not even imagined. “Slave stealing and land and river piracy were integral parts of the development of southern organized crime” (p. 122). Geographical location, as Lyman illustrates, is a major variable in how crime is organized and carried out. The societal forces that push an individual to become involved add to the perplexities. Norms and traditions with specific areas help perpetuate these organizations and also foster a culture of complacency.
Moreover, “the image of the United States…[being] a great melting pot of cultures, ideas and traditions…is more akin to a pressure cooker”(p. 249). The differences that could very easily be the foundation of unity and camaraderie is frequently the center of division and discontentment. Each gang views themselves as a sector or coalition that has been unsuccessful in integrating into society fully. It is in seeing life through this lens that creates such a hostile environment for the neighborhood at large. Where local law enforcement agencies are responding to these disturbances they must be weary not to simply displace them from one district to another but instead aim efforts at prevention services. Gangs as well as syndicates worldwide are recruiting juveniles at younger ages. These is a challenge in determining the level of innocence in cette child. A large amount of the criminal activities these members participate in, hold adult charges whereas the defense could argue that an individual under the legal age is not mentally developed enough to make decisions that can hold a lifelong impact. In these instances, the face of criminality is warped and difficult to precisely define. The children that are pulled into violent situations, those that are forced to lead a fugitive lifestyle, a life that is governed by risks and fickle rewards are victims as well, right?
One of the most compelling difficulties in the fight against organized crime is the attempt to seperating it from the hip of terrorism. Agencies nationwide, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations as well as the Central Intelligence Agency each have slightly contrasting definitions of what terrorism is, each provide a concise explanation regarding their motives and method(s). Organized crime has the freedom of spiraling in any direction depending solely on the motivations at the moment. “Most acts of terrorism [however], have three basic participants: the perpetrator, the victim and the audience affected” (p. 317). It is with these components that the two can be distinguished more clearly. In the case of terrorism, an act of warfare is being initiated in contrast with organized crime. There is a sense of honor and dignity because terrorists truly believe that the cause supersedes all other.
Organized crime and terrorism, in many ways mirror one another and differ in various details. Louise I. Shelley’s (1981) report regarding organized crime and international terrorism sheds light on the context to exactly how “both law enforcement and intelligence…rel[ied] on the established maxim of examining ‘methods, not motives’ in [an] attempt to observe and identify” them (p. 26). One of the main differences that they analyzed between the two in their report is that “terrorists and criminals often use the same methods, but most often for divergent motives” (p.28). The common tool used is evaluating the outcome in order to define the party. It usually shows up as terrorists mimicking the antisocial behavior that surrounds them at that particular time. For instance, depending on the circumstances terrorists may use crimes such as credit card fraud or extortion as vehicles that are driven by much greater influences. This specific challenge is birthed between these them because of the borrowing of techniques from one another. In all, terrorism is much easier to describe than to define, making it extremely easy for it to be contoured and molded by whomever.