Organized crime, organised crime, and often criminal organizations are terms which categorize transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals, who intend to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are politically motivated. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for so-called "protection" (called a protection racket). Gangs may become disciplined enough to be considered organized. An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob.
Other organizations — including states, militaries, police force, and corporations — may sometimes use organized crime methods to conduct their business, but their powers derive from their status as formal social institutions. There is a tendency to distinguish organized crime from other forms of crimes, such as, white-collar crime, financial crimes, political crimes, war crime, state crimes and treason. This distinction is not always apparent and the academic debate is ongoing. For example, in failed states that can no longer perform basic functions such as education, security, or governance, usually due to fractious violence or extreme poverty, organised crime, governance and war are often complementary to each other. The term Parliamentary Mafiocracy is often attributed to democratic countries whose political, social and economic institutions are under the control of few families and business oligarchs.
Among organized crime extortion is very common[Citation Needed], but other crimes range from illegal betting, fraud, hacking of credit card information, and prostitution, to elaborate "pump and dump" schemes involving millions of dollars worth of securities on the stock market. Organized crime is often found within communities of immigrants because the newcomers are individually vulnerable to exploitation and intimidation[Who says?], and at the same time the community as a whole provides cover for gangs of the same ethnicity to blend in and hide from law enforcement.
There are eleven characteristics from the European Commission and Europol pertinent to a working definition of organized crime. Six of those must be satisfied and the four in italics are mandatory. Summarized they are:
- more than two people;
- their own appointed tasks;
- activity over a prolonged or indefinite period of time;
- the use discipline or control;
- perpetration of serious criminal offenses;
- operations on an international or transnational level;
- the use violence or other intimidation;
- the use of commercial or businesslike structures;
- engagement in money laundering;
- exertion of influence on politics, media, public administration, judicial authorities or the economy; and,
- motivated by the pursuit of profit and/or power,
with the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention) having a similar definition:
- organized criminal: structured group, three or more people, one or more serious crimes, in order to obtain financial or other material benefit;
- serious crime: offense punishable by at least four years in prison; and,
- structured group: Not randomly formed but doesn't need formal structure,
Others stress the importance of power, profit and perpetuity, defining organized criminal behavior as:
- nonideological: i.e. profit driven;
- hierarchical: few elites and many operatives;
- limited or exclusive membership: maintain secrecy and loyalty of members;
- perpetuating itself: Recruitment process and policy;
- willing to use illegal violence and bribery;
- specialized division of labor: to achieve organization goal;
- monopolistic: Market control to maximize profits; and,
- has explicit rules and regulations: Codes of honor.
- Macionis, Gerber, John, Linda (2010). Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Canada Inc. p. 206.
- Definition of Mob in the Oxford Dictionary online, see meaning 2. Oxforddictionaries.com.
- Tilly, Charles. 1985. “State Formation as Organized Crime.” In Evans, Peter, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol eds. Bringing the State Back In Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Interview with Panos Kostakos (2012) Is Oil Smuggling and Organized Crime the Cause of Greece’s Economic Crisis? (by Jen Alic)
- Abadinsky (2009). Organized Crime. Cengage.