- The National Criminal Justice Referral Service (NCJRS) will play an important role in many aspects. Foremost, the website offers great information on criminal activities, public safety, drugs and other important aspects related to criminal justice. The information that is provided on these and other subjects will help not only in understanding the past and current issues of criminal justice that I will cover in my studies, but also in the completion of research assignments on a variety of topics that are related to the course. Secondly, besides the use of NCJRS for the purposes of research, I will also be able to enhance my knowledge on a wide range of criminal justice issues that I might be interested in whether or not they will be studied in class. The website creates easy access to such diverse knowledge through the questions and answers section, and an interactive user interface from which one can identify several interesting or high profile issues. Finally, the NCJRS will also provide me with updates on important events and conferences that I can take part in so as to acquire feedback online or via physical presence, which is a critical and practical approach for understanding matters related to criminal justice.
The National Criminal Justice Referral Service. Retrieved January 20th, 2014 from http:/www.ncjrs.gov/
- The Italian Mafia (the Mafia) is one of the best organized and well defined criminal groups in the US (Finklea, 2010). The group is made up of a properly instituted organizational structure and hierarchy. At the helm of the leadership is the boss, who heads the criminal group and exercises rule without any opposition- dictator (Bennett & Hess, 2006, p.540). The boss receives a share of the proceeds from the activities of the group. The boss is elected by the captain. He also appoints the underboss who is second in command to help in the daily administrative responsibilities. The boss pays the second in command and grooms him to become the next boss in case former dies or gets imprisoned. The underboss is closely followed by the consigliore (counselor) – the advisor to the group. He or she assists in the resolution of conflicts arising within and between the criminal groups. The captain is fourth in command and is manages a number of soldiers who are sent out on daily crime errands. The soldiers are members of the family who operate as workers. At the lowest rank is an associate who is not a member of the Mafia but has close ties with the group.
People become members of organized criminal gangs for various reasons. One is that individual criminals are likely to increase their earnings by joining organized criminal groups that have resources required for pulling well paying jobs (Koppen, 2012). Besides, many criminal organizations are comprised of people with close family ties, which mean that family members recruit their relatives in order to maintain a high level of trust. Others join organized criminal gangs when they are faced with life challenges that need quick sources of income in order to address, but do not have the resources and skills required in engaging in crime individually.
Bennett, W & Hess, K (2006). Criminal Investigation. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Finklea, K.M (2010). Organized Crime in the United States: Trends and issues for Congress.
Retrieved January 20, 2014 from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40525.pdf
Koppen, M.V (2013). Involvement mechanisms for organized crime. Crime Law and Social Change 59: 1-20.
- Organized crime is closely linked to a corrupt political structure, which encourages social disorganization by misusing power for personal benefits (Choi & Choi, 2012, p.229). The political machine is made up of a hierarchical leadership whereby the one is authority has the final word and may not face prosecution even if he or she acts in violation of the law. This could explain the reason why many organized criminal groups have a tight hierarchical leadership with the head being a dictator. Organized crime thrives when the corrupt political figures liaise with the leaders of criminal gangs in order to advance criminal activities. Corrupt government officials give information and other resources to the organized criminal groups in order to avoid arrest and accomplish their acts. The politicians in return get political and monetary boosts.
Choi, C & Choi, S (2012). Collaborative Partnerships and Crime in Disorganized Communities. Public Administrative Review, 72(2), 228-238. Doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02498.x.
- Organized crime groups establish legitimate businesses because they are targeting the control of the labor market through provision of goods and services to the general public (Albanese, 2011, p.113). Some of the legitimate businesses enterprises that organized criminal gangs operate are like shipping, banking, transport and insurance. In doing this, they are able to conceal their motives and enhance an environment that favors the expansion of their activities. One of the ways through which organized criminal groups steal money in means that seem legitimate is labor racketeering- the act of unlawfully accessing and using employee funds for personal benefit through fraudulence or violence (Office of Inspector General, 2014). Examples of labor racketeering crimes include embezzlement, benefit plan fraud, gambling, extortion and loan sharking. These operations are conducted within concealed networks that seem to be lawful like payment to labor unions, loan acquisitions, and payments to providers of employee benefits. Organized criminal groups use financial investment schemes to illegally acquire money from government pension assets and private funds.
Albanese, J. S. (2011). Organized crime in our times. Burlington, MA: Anderson Pub.
Office of Inspector General. The OIG’s labor racketeering program. Retrieved January 20, 2014 from http://www.oig.dol.gov/laborracprogram.htm
- Organized criminal groups in the United States have unique features that are based on the individual crime group and the situational arrangements in the areas that they operate in, and the criminal acts that they take part in. For instance, the Russian and Italian organized criminal gangs vary in the way their organization structures are formed, with the former being the looser and less traditional in its structure (Finklea, 2010. P.15). The Russian Mafia tends to be more involved in fraud; however, they are also engaged in prostitution, trafficking and smuggling. The Asian organized criminal gangs in the US on the other hand, engage in drug trafficking, frauds, kidnappings and money laundering. The Italian Mafia is engaged in gambling, drug trafficking and loan sharking among other illegal operations.
Finklea, K. M. (2010). Organized crime in the United States: Trends and issues for Congress. Retrieved January 20, 2014 from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40525.pdf
- The world is not even closer to eliminating the threat of terrorism since the use and misuse of the phrase, ‘terrorism’’ still continues to spread despite its vague definition. Although several academic research studies have been done on terrorism, the researchers have not been able to define terrorism (Reitan, 2010 p.254). According to American scholars, the definition of terrorism should involve political motivation, non-state actors and civilian targets. This means that when the military kill civilians and cause destruction of state property, the acts cannot be classified under terrorism. In the same way, when a criminal gang destroys military assets or kills soldiers, such an act is not described as terrorism since the victims are not civilians. I think it is not right to treat crime as a special type of crime. In fact, the term ‘terrorism’ should be removed from legal sources and all acts of violence, with or without political agenda, targeting civilians or non-civilians irrespective of whether the perpetrators should be treated as individual criminal cases and punished accordingly.
Reitan, E. (2010). Defining Terrorism for Public Policy Purposes: The Group-Target Definition. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 7(2), 253-278. doi:10.1163/174552409X12574076813513
- Organized criminal groups act together with politicians within the locality and even at state level in order to accomplish their political and economic motives. The criminal groups facilitate re-election of politicians in several ways, including funding campaigns, stealing of votes and logistic support (Shanty & Mishra, 2008 p.362). Many organized criminal groups are quite flexible to allow politicians to become part of them without becoming subordinates to the boss of the syndicates. Thus, the politician can provide services to the group and easily obtain the much needed financial gains for his or her political ambitions without facing lots of challenges. Besides, corrupt politicians can also collaborate with organized criminal gangs to steal funds from the state. The group would carry out the embezzlement and fraudulent activities by using the information or resources from the politicians. Such acts are usually done in business enterprises that look quite legitimate, thereby making it hard to detect the activities of the criminal gangs.
Shanty, F., & Mishra, P. P. (2008). Organized crime: From trafficking to terrorism. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
- Organized crime has been deeply rooted in society as a result of many reasons. One is that organized criminal groups create strategic relationships with corrupt political regimes so as to weaken the ability of the state in fighting crime. Corrupt state officers encourage social disorganization through tolerance of criminal activities. Organized crime easily thrives in such societies that are disorganized (Gounev & Ruggiero, 2012 p.129). Besides, organized criminal gangs escape the law by taking part in legal enterprises and minimizing violent crimes. These gangs apply their knowledge of financial investments in obtaining funds fraudulently and escaping detection. The gangs also provide services and goods that are required by the public but cannot be supplied by the state or are classified as illegal by the government. This means that if the state does not provide those goods and services, the criminal groups will continue to be in business despite the efforts by the state to do away with them.
It should also be noted that fighting organized crime through the law remains to be a challenge because of many reasons. For instance, organized crime is transnational. This means that even though the activities of a particular gang are suppressed in one country, it continues to operate in other places (Jonsson, 2008, p.375). The legal regimes of various countries and the commitment to enforcing such law vary greatly, this even further makes it challenging to fight organized crime in a collective manner. Besides, although international conventions targeting the fight against crime are in place, individual states are reluctant in the implementation of those conventions as a result of issues pertaining to sovereignty.
Gounev, P. & Ruggiero, V. (2012).Corruption and organized crime in Europe: Illegal partnerships. London, Routledge.
Jonsson, A. (2008). Combating transnational organized crime: Technical and legal issues. In Shanty, F. & Mishra, P. Shanty, F., & Mishra, P. P. (Eds), Organized crime: From trafficking to terrorism (pp. 375-377). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.