Organized crime groups exist all around us and often evade public awareness. These organized crime groups can be transnational criminal organizations, national groups or local groups who work together to commit crimes.
The members of organized crime groups are responsible for a wide range of crimes. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the most significant crimes committed by organized crime groups include:
- Money laundering
- Asset misappropriation
- Counterfeiting and contraband
- Fraud and extortion.
- Human trafficking
Other crimes include:
- Drug trafficking
- Demands for protection from government officials
- Loan sharking
Organized Crime Groups Are Highly Profitable for Members
Organized crime groups involve a strictly organized hierarchical structure and are highly profitable. In fact, transnational organized crime groups earn almost $2 trillion per year in revenue, according to the Mob Museum.
Why Is Investigating These Groups So Difficult?
Transnational organized crime groups traditionally use include many different people with different roles in the group. These people work in concert to commit global crimes.
For instance, they can target victims and carry out criminal schemes from anywhere in the world. As a result, investigating their crimes is difficult.
Human Trafficking and Organized Crime
Many organized crime groups have gotten involved in human trafficking due to its profitability. Sex trafficking and forced labor victims can be easily moved across borders by organized crime groups who have the money to bribe officials and have the right connections to facilitate the movement of victims.
Human trafficking occurs throughout the world in both developed and undeveloped countries. Sadly, it is not often easy to detect, even if activity is occurring in your own community.
Detecting the Presence of Organized Crime Groups
Interestingly, organized crime groups closely resemble businesses that operate legitimately. On many occasions, organized crime groups use legitimate businesses to launder their money.
According to INTERPOL, organized crime groups set up long-term goals and have a hierarchy of leaders. Group members often have similarities such as geographical, ethnic, or blood ties that bring them together.
INTERPOL is one of several law enforcement organizations working to fight the crimes committed by organized crime groups. INTERPOL staff conduct criminal analysis and gather intelligence from their international partners to identify “organizers, financers, recruiters, distributors, and corrupt officials” through biometrics, images, and known associates.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is another law enforcement organization working to combat organized crime. The FBI uses undercover operations, electronic surveillance, informants, and other investigative tools to find and prosecute criminals.
Political Instabilities Breed Organized Crime
Organized crime flourishes whenever there is political instability. That instability creates opportunities for these groups to buy political influence and gain protection for their criminal operations. These groups are responsible for fostering the corruption of public officials in countries around the world with weak political systems.
Organized crime groups may work with other established transnational criminal organizations such as cartels and international gangs. These other organizations provide aid for illicit activities such as arms trafficking, fraudulent medicine trafficking and organ trafficking.
For example, Colombia’s largest drug cartel is the Gulf Clan and they operate heavily in an area called the Darien Gap, a jungle between Colombia and Panama known for criminal activity. Foreign organized crime groups may work with a cartel such as the Gulf Clan to move products or people through this type of region that another transnational criminal organization controls.
How Can Crimes from Organized Crime Groups Be Stopped?
To combat organized crime, law enforcement needs a well-equipped workforce who can investigate the different layers of organized crime. Surveillance, intelligence analysis, and inter-agency collaboration is often essential to combat the multiple crimes committed by group members.
A valuable tool against organized crime is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act from the U.S. Department of Justice. RICO is a powerful tool for law enforcement because its conspiracy provision can be applied to criminal enterprises; it enables investigators to associate crimes that do not appear to be related to a common objective under a pattern of racketeering.
Due to their power and immense wealth, organized crime groups won’t disappear any time soon. But with regular investigative work and arrests, their criminal activities can be reduced.