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Organized crime refers to criminal operations undertaken by a criminal organization in an organized manner.
Many forms of crime involve some degree of planning and organization, typically in a gang. However, organized crime usually refers to larger operations, involving a network or hierarchy of criminal contacts in a mafia or syndicate.
The UK "Serious and Organized Crime Strategy", published in 2013, defines organized crime quite well:
"There is no legal definition of organized crime in England and Wales. For the purposes of this strategy, organized crime is serious crime planned, co - ordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain. Organized crime is characterized by violence or the threat of violence and by the use of bribery and corruption: organized criminals very often depend on the assistance of corrupt, complicit or negligent professionals, notably lawyers, accountants and bankers. Organized crime also uses sophisticated technology to conduct operations, maintain security and evade justice.”
Some typical activities of organized crime are:
- Drug trafficking
- Arms trafficking
- Sex industry trafficking
- Extortion, blackmail and bribery
- Contract killing
- Car theft
Smart criminals know that they do not live in a vacuum; they live in communities, and often rely on public support to hide their misdeeds. The Mafia, for example, used to run orphanages and supply food to the needy during a time when welfare wasn't exactly adequate; talking to the police about criminal activity wasn't just about whether or not the mobster goes to Sing Sing, it was also about whether or not your cousin would have food on the table next week. In many ways, organized crime acts like a particularly cruel Robin Hood; extorting the "greedy" shopkeepers and (barely) giving to the poor. Of course, by extorting the shops and running the criminal enterprises they keep even more people in poverty.
In a more bizarre twist, organized crime can often act as the justice system that a few seem to advocate. Say, for example, you own a shop or restaurant, but out front are a number of "undesirables" (i.e., homeless, junkies, petty criminals, etc) that are scaring away your customers. If the police don't
beat the crap out of them encourage them to go elsewhere, you are going to go out of business. The police might not be willing to do your dirty work, but the mafia sure will. So the mob comes in, cleans up the streets, and extorts requests reasonable compensation from the businesses in the form of a protection racket.
Depending on the balance of power in various organized crime syndicates, some syndicates may control some of the aforementioned operations more than others and develop rivalries as a result. Some syndicate members may get whacked and end up sleeping with the fishes.
- Serious and Organized Crime Strategy (Command Paper 8715, published October 2013.
- Read / watch The Godfather.