Organized Crime

     Organized Crime and the Social Institution

Organized crime has many illegal and legitimate businesses. Organized crime can be seen as a social institution. Organized crime possesses a chain of command with leadership and specific rules governing the organization. Empirical and speculative theories are in place to help us understand the theories of organized criminal groups. There are many theories that explain organized crime and criminal behavior. Organized crime as a social institution can be seen with strong connections to politics, law enforcement and the citizens of the United States.

     Law enforcement struggles with the view of organized criminal groups being compared to social institutions. Law enforcement must bring an open-minded approach to better understand the theories involved in criminal organizations. The comparison of criminal organizations with social institutions will allow law enforcement a broader approach in understanding criminal organizations. Criminal organizations operate much like any other legitimate business with a few illegal twists. Criminal organizations sell goods to consumers that are tired of over-priced consumer goods. The criminal organizations offer lower prices due to criminal activity such as theft, tax evasion, extortion, and intimidation. The frustrated consumer keeps the criminal organization in business by purchasing the consumer goods without regard to how the goods were obtained. Law enforcement tends to over-look the organized criminal activity and focus on the average street criminal. The average street criminal takes the focus away from criminal organizations and the reactive law enforcement agencies lack the time and resources to deal with the complexity of organized criminal groups.

     Law enforcement may lack the resources in funding and staffing to properly handle an organized crime group that is embedded within a community. The organized crime group blends in as a legitimate business within the community. The false pretense presents a view of organized crime groups operating as social institutions. The greed and corruption of law enforcement and politicians allow the criminal organizations to become firmly embedded within a community. Society is preoccupied with wealth and power. The drive for wealth and power is a driving force to support organized criminal activity. The theory of conspiracy can best describe organized crime. Organized criminal activity takes more than one individual working towards a common goal. The individuals conspire together to form criminal organizations that produce profit by any means possible. The criminal organizations are governed by leaders and form a system of hierarchy with rules in place much like the largest industries. Criminal organizations remain structured like successful businesses and gain acceptance as legitimate businesses. The social acceptance allows the criminal activity to be over-looked and ignored by society.

     Organized criminal groups have deep ties within families and communities. The ties with family and communities create strength for the criminal organization and form a social institution. The communities tend to view the activity of the criminal organizations as less than illegal or morally wrong actions. The behavior of the organized crime groups become accepted behavior and a part of supporting life within the community.  Theories such as the queer ladder of mobility, social disorganization, and social control may help to explain why or why not an individual becomes part of organized crime. There is no definitive answer. Members of society from various ethnic and economical backgrounds choose to become and choose not to become part of organized criminal groups. The theories can help criminal justice professionals to predict future trends in organized criminal activity but not with scientific perfection. The future growth of criminal organizations can be estimated by the exploration of theories. The desire for power and wealth continue to be the driving force and the key factor to growth of the criminal organizations.

     Organized criminal groups maintain a structure of leadership and hierarchy. The criminal organizations enlist members of society, law enforcement, and political figures to advance their activity. Criminal organizations have established rules that protect their industry and they operate like many well-known legitimate businesses. Organized crime groups contribute to their communities and are seen as providing services needed within a community. Criminal organizations will continue to grow with the acceptance of the communities as a social institution.