Organized crime can be defined as a group of people who engage in illegal activities that include, but are not limited to drug/weapons smuggling, extortion, prostitution, money laundering, contract murder and lots of other illicit ventures. Members of these groups can be notoriously difficult to prosecute, mainly because of their ability to intimidate, bribe or kill innocent witnesses, and to flee the country when the authorities are closing in on them. The Italian crime families, the Japanese Yakuza and the Chinese Triads are three such examples of organized crime groups which still operate today.
Those groups originated in their respective countries long ago as a result of lawlessness and corruption. As secret brotherhoods which were a law unto themselves, a series of strict rules and oaths were introduced as a sort of code that dictated how they should behave. Once a new member was accepted, he could never resign his membership unless of course he was killed. The penalty for joining a rival group would most likely be death. Loyalty to one’s boss was absolute, especially in the case of the Japanese Yakuza.
The profits generated by organized crime groups are staggering. Totaling billions of dollars in value, their daily activities are often hidden by legitimate businesses, which are set up as a convenient front to deflect unwanted attention. Members of the police force and those in the judicial system are not entirely immune to corruption, and more often than is recognized or even questioned, receive kickbacks to keep quiet and look the other way. This aids organized crime and allows their shady businesses to continue to operate with impunity.
Three relatively new groups which have become well known in recent years are the Colombian drug cartels, the Jamaican Yardies, or Posses as they are sometimes called and the Russian Mob. These three groups are known to be especially violent and are predominantly involved in the production and sale of cocaine and heroin.
Individual crime, carried out by one person, can still instill fear and mistrust in the community. Bank robbery, assault, rape, auto theft and identity theft are examples of crimes often carried out by a single man or woman. The loss of money can be substantial if a robbery occurs in a bank. Murder, a capital offence punishable by death in many countries today, is sometimes the unfortunate by-product of robberies gone badly. Unlike organized crime, individual crime can be carried out by inexperienced people who are not members of a large hierarchical family. Without the benefit of having a group to hide behind when the crime has been committed, the individual is an easier catch for the police.
Another big difference between organized crime and individual crime is that while organized criminal activities are conducted by people with a common ethnic origin, individual crimes are committed by members of all ethnic, racial and religious groups.