- Defining organized crime
- Definition in the Organized Crime Convention
- Similarities and differences between organized crime and other forms of crime
- Activities, organization and composition of organized criminal groups
Published in April 2018
Regional Perspective: Eastern and Southern Africa - added in April 2020
This module is a resource for lecturers
Research and independent study questions
a) Use UNODC SHERLOC database to identify the key patterns of the involvement of women as offenders in the crimes covered by the Organized Crime Convention.
b) The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) suggests that there are as many as 18 specific foreign terrorist organizations linked to the global drug trade. Conduct an independent study of open sources and provide specific examples of the involvement of terrorist organizations in drug trafficking activities. Identify the key reasons why terrorist organizations and organized criminal group may overcome ideological and operational differences or even morph into a hybrid entity. Discuss some reasons why organized criminal organizations, particularly those with a traditional code of conduct, may not be interested to associate themselves with terrorist organizations.
c) On the one hand, it can be argued that organized criminal groups are very similar to business corporations: they are strategic, rational, and highly mobile, and take advantage of open borders and new opportunities. According to this view, criminal groups may detach from their original territory and operate freely across borders. On the other hand, one may also note that mafias, and organized criminal groups in general, have great difficulty establishing themselves outside their original territory or operate across borders without attaching to a particular geographical location. Accordingly, this perspective suggests that criminal groups are heavily dependent on their local environment, particularly territory. Discuss the differences and similarities between territorial and non-territorial organized criminal groups and analyze the opportunities and limitations of criminal groups operating across borders. Provide real life examples.
d) The role that ethnicity plays in shaping organized crime has long been at the centre of a heated debate among scholars and policymakers. Two broad schools of thought may be identified in this regard. The first, which its critics label the "alien conspiracy theory," assigns primary significance to the role played by ethnicity in organized crime. From this point of view, traditional organized criminal groups emerged out of ethnic groups, which might have arrived from abroad. While the alien conspiracy theory has received wide support, its critics argue that it too often substitutes myth for fact. Not all ethnic groups have been involved in organized crime and those that have been involved have tended, often, to specialize in particular forms of illegal activities. Therefore, by recognizing different factors behind the formation of organized criminal groups, it is important to develop a more nuanced approach to the role of ethnicity in organized criminal groups. Which approach to the role of ethnicity in the formation of organized crime do you support?
e) What would organized crime look like if it were dominated by women? Analyse the autobiography of a female organized crime figure with a view to identifying the importance of gender roles in an organized criminal group.
f) Conduct a literature review on Central American gangs. Can these criminal organizations be considered organized crime? How are gangs different from organized crime?