Organization of individuals with the aim of planning and executing criminal activities constitutes organized crime. My perception of organized crime has been cultivated over time by popular media such as films and television shows including the Godfather, the Sopranos and Carlito’s Way among others. Presentation of criminal organizations such as the Mafia and the Yakuza in entertainment media has significantly contributed to creating perceptions of organized crime (Siegel & de Bunt, 2012).
In light of these, my perception of organized crime is assertion of control by ruthless criminal individuals with the aim of asserting themselves over others. Particularly, organized crime is premised on breaking the law and infringing individual rights to exercise their freedoms without regard for the rule of law. Organized crime inherently involves groups of criminals whose intent is to practice criminal activities as a structured organization. In most instances, organized criminals have turf wars where innocent bystanders are often caught in the cross fire between criminal gangs fighting over control of territories. Organized crime characteristically involves illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, extortion and prostitution among others.
In most cases organized criminals operate with impunity through intimidation and blackmailing of law enforcement officers. In so doing, criminal organizations are able to operate without fear of prosecution since they are either protected by law enforcement officer, such as the police, or they have infiltrated the hierarchies of government and law enforcement. These strategies ensure that criminal empires expand freely and are forewarned in the event of raids by law enforcement officer. Additionally, threatening the public with dire consequences, such as displays of violence against the most vocal individuals in the community ensures that criminal organizations operate freely without retaliation from the people in areas where they operate. Therefore, my perception of organized crime is a group of criminals whose sole purpose is to commit criminal acts while retaliating and oppressing those opposed to their activities.
Similarity between my perception of organized crime and that described by readings is that criminals come together to form an organization with the aim of committing criminal acts. Additionally, organized crime may involve individuals in law enforcement and other levels or government. However, these individuals may be willing participants and not a result of being intimidated into cooperation with organized criminals. Consequently, the organized crime is premised on expanding operations into newer territories with the aim of growing the organization while furthering their criminal agenda (Adamoli, Nicola, Savona & Zoffi, 1998).
While my perception of organized crime is premised on violence and ruthlessness, organized crime, according to the readings, may or may not be of a violent nature. For instance, there are those organized criminals whose activities require the use of violence such as armed robbers, carjacking rings and drug traffickers (Siegel & de Bunt, 2012). Meanwhile, there are those organized criminals whose activities are white collar crimes in nature and who do not involve violence or physical contact with their victims. These may include organized criminals who target people’s credit cards and social security information for purposes of defrauding them.
A more distinct aspect of organized crime, according to the readings, is the fact that organized criminals engage in legal and legitimate business with the purpose of masking their illegal activities and laundering their illegally acquired money into legitimate taxable incomes. This differs from the perception that organized crime solely involves illegal and criminal activities, while the money accrued from their activities is stored in secured vaults or storage units under guard. The incorporation of illegal and legal businesses ensures that organized criminals are significantly difficult to identify; therefore, they operate without the law enforcement agencies noticing their activities.
Organized crime assumes structures of legitimate organizations; therefore, they are characteristically similar to legitimate traditional organizations. In most cases organized criminals have a superior leader or a group of leaders who assume control of the criminal enterprise. These establish a hierarchical structure where each person is defined according to his/her functions and duties in the organization (Mallory, 2012). This aspect of organized crime ensures that there is no conflict for authority; therefore, each person in the organization has defined authority and responsibilities. In light of this, the upper echelons of criminal organizations are accessible to only a few people with whom they are in direct contact. Criminal organizations are identifiable by their enterprises, such as drug trafficking, gambling or prostitution among others.
Identification of organized crime with various activities is critical to representation of the underlying goals of the organization. These activities are heavily insulated to ensure that the organization's integrity and security is preserved. Therefore, individuals are only allowed to know and interact with their immediate superiors and individuals in the same cadre (Adamoli et al., 1998). Organized crime is distinguishable from conventional legitimate organizations in that the decision making process is not inclusive of other employees; instead, decisions are made by the superiors, whose orders are issued down the hierarchical structure of the organization. These decisions are final and cannot be challenged by individuals of lower level authority. Organized crime integrates specialization in its functions, with members of the organization performing defined duties exclusively (Mallory, 2012).
In some instances, members of the organization have no physical contact with each other and use pseudo-names to identify each other. Additionally, they use predefined methods of communicating with each other where those members who fail to follow protocol are eliminated or excommunicated from the organization (Siegel & de Bunt, 2012). Organized crime operates under preset conditions where its members are sworn to silence. In essence, members have to pass various tests before they can be allowed into the organization’s inner circles. This aspect ensures that only few trusted members of the organization have intimate knowledge of the organization’s secrets.
Criminal organizations often ensure that they infiltrate law enforcement agencies or pay hefty bribes to get information on these agencies’ operations. In so doing, they prevent being detected by most traps set out for them. Meanwhile, when members of the organization are apprehended, they are sworn to silence; therefore, they cannot divulge any information to the law agencies in fear of their lives (Adamoli et al., 1998). Arrested criminals who fail to accept state protection in exchange of information against their respective criminal organizations, choose to languish in jail in favor of the alternative, where they are most likely expose themselves and their families to danger.