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Controlling Organized Crime

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Controlling Organized Crime
Rob Papagno
CJA/384
03 September 2013
Daniel Barry

Controlling Organized Crime
Some people would say that organized crime has ruined the United States and allowed petty hoods to gain worldwide recognition. Others would disagree and say organized crime is no different than any major corporation in today’s global economy. Some people would say organized crime is the best thing to happen to neighborhoods which law enforcement will not come into. No matter what side of the fence a person falls on, some part of what they believe will be correct, and part will not. During the course of this paper, the author will look at organized crime, identify the problems presented and the various relationships established by organized crime, and describe the legal limitations associated with combating organized crime, including a critique of major federal laws and strategies that support this effort. Finally, the author will suggest a realistic solution to control organized crime by discussing and evaluating the effectiveness of organized crime prosecutions.
Problems with Organized Crime
The problem with organized crime is that it often infringes on people’s basic rights and destroys economic structure, and political and civil development, on a global scale.
Transnational organized crime rears its ugly head in many different forms, ranging from the trafficking of drugs and people to illegal arms. This is often accomplished by using unsuspecting individuals to transport goods and clean dirty money through legitimate businesses. The large sums of dirty money often impact communities because it is used to buy political power through funding campaigns of political supporters and bribing officials to push illegal agendas of organized crime. Every year, countless individuals lose their lives at the hands of criminals involved in organized crime, succumbing to drug-related health problems or injuries inflicted by firearms, or losing their lives as a result of the unscrupulous methods and motives of human traffickers. (UNODC, 2013)
Organized crime has expanded itself in today’s global economy to larger than life proportions. In today’s society, goods are produced on one continent, moved to another and sold on a third continent, making it harder for law enforcement to prosecute these individuals. These transnational organized crime elements have now risen to the levels of being able to politically position their people inside government, and government agencies, in order to hinder social and economic development, to empower those who operate outside the law.
Many people have hoped that in today’s society, organized crime would have stopped. But, in reality, it has become highly adaptive, sinister, and less rigid in its structure in order to have an even greater global presence.
Legal Limitations Associated with Organized Crime
The legal limitations put on law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors attempting to fight organized crime, have made prosecuting these criminals rather difficult, with so many legal loopholes in today’s laws. Each state in the United States has its own laws regarding how organized crime is to be dealt with, and very rarely do two states agree on the same actions. The laws also vary when the way that the federal government investigates and prosecutes these offenders is factored in. Most major criminal organizations are also aware of what they can get away with in each state, making it easier for them to avoid prosecution. One major drawback law enforcement departments and special units encounter is the strict rules, regulations, and procedures of surrounding states. Unfortunately, criminals are exempt from such rules and use this to their advantage (Stephens, 1996).
One idea to combat organized crime is to loosen the restrictions put on local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors and allow them to be able to cross city, county, and state lines, when in pursuit of the criminal, without having to worry about whether they will have to hand over the capture and prosecution to another agency. This would make pursuing these individuals easier; however, there are a few drawbacks with this idea. These include the concern that less stringent limitations might entice some officers and prosecutors to pursue criminals without regard for other law enforcement procedures, a possible increase in constitutional violation rights cases, and a possible increase in innocent people caught in the legal crossfire of some over-exuberant prosecutors.
In the continuing war on organized crime and domestic terrorism, the United States has been working on establishing a continental organization with the sole purpose of putting organized crime and terrorist organizations out of commission in North America. In recent years, the United States, Mexican, and Canadian governments have come to believe the idea that these criminal organizations seek out countries that lack stability. Underdeveloped, and moderately developed, countries are breeding grounds for criminal organizations, as a result of insufficient and inadequate law enforcement personnel. Another belief is that more wide-spread intelligence sharing, and similar international laws for dealing with these groups, would make it harder for organized crime, as well as domestic and foreign terrorist groups, to evade law enforcement (Public Safety Canada, 2006).
An important federal law that supports combating criminal organizations is the 1965/1966 Mafia-membership law that was proposed by Senator John McClellan. Senate Bill 2187, 89th Congress, Senate Bill 678, 90th Congress: The law applies to domestic and international organized crime groups and punishes any individual who is knowingly or willfully involved with the Mafia. The law also punishes individuals involved with any organization that engages in criminal activity, such as gambling, extortion, blackmail, narcotics, prostitution, and labor-racketeering. In addition, the individual must have knowledge of the organization’s purpose or criminal intentions. Any individual found guilty of violating this law will not receive a prison sentence of fewer than five years and not more than a $20,000.00 fine (Organized Crime in the U.S., 2009).
Many solutions can help police and law enforcement agencies combat organized crime. As technology evolves and global interaction becomes easier, law enforcement can use these technological advancements to turn the tide on criminal activities. These new technologies now give law enforcement the abilities to research new methods of combating organized crime through multinational cooperation, help train specialized units capable of combating and deploying in short notice, and provide up to date, state of the art equipment for use in the field. Advanced training for officers, based on technology, will also allow them to theorize where potential hot spots may occur and focus the necessary resources on preventing criminal organizations from moving into these areas. In terms of prosecution, technology has allowed prosecutors to show reenactments, as well as compelling arguments and undisputable evidence, of criminal involvement, based on evidence gathered through this method.
Another solution for combating organized crime, and the one that this author believes to be the best option, is for all levels of law enforcement to create universal laws and statutes that make it mandatory for these agencies to work together, though this is something that government agencies in the United States often have difficulty doing. This new way of thinking would be that law enforcement no longer looks at just the impact crime is having on their jurisdiction, but how it affects other areas of the country, as well as internationally. The author believes this type of new mission statement would help to detect, prevent, and capture terrorist and organized criminal enterprises, as well as criminals performing heinous acts of violence.
Realistic Solutions to Control Organized Crime
Organized crime often shows itself in several different forms. Organized crime has evolved to the point where low level crimes, often involving as few as two or three people, have become considered an organized crime. “As long as there have been cities, there have been gangs and organized crime of one sort or another. In the United States, gangs have traditionally been a sort of halfway house for recent immigrants. In the 1920’s, Chicago alone had more than 1,300 street gangs, catering to every ethnic, political, and criminal leaning imaginable. Some fancied themselves commercial enterprises, and a few the Mafia, most notable actually did make a substantial amount of money.” (Levitt & Dubner).
Growing from those patterns we have everything from motorcycle gangs to the Black Disciples and their drug distribution system that operates, in essence, nationwide. All of these different criminal patterns are easily considered organized crime, and they each develop their own political, financial, and social bases of power and strength.
These groups form relationships with each other as needed and dissolve them just as quickly. It is almost like trying to track terrorists and tie them to specific organizations when, for decades, they survived by changing their affiliations overnight. The Black Disciples readily adjust their operations in Chicago to allow gun smugglers to use their system in exchange for a discounted price on the guns they need to buy. For decades, the Mafia has been known for their ability to “loan” hit men, enforcers, or whatever else another branch needed, so that it would be harder to track the crime back to the visiting “staff.”
Individuals engaged in organized crime also go to great measures to make sure that the community where they operates has the occasional party, or other activity, to show they are giving back to the local community, in exchange for being allowed to commit crimes. The Black Disciples “liked to brag that their criminal activity kept black money in the black community” (Levitt & Dubner)
Most people in leadership roles in organized crime do whatever they must to stay involved with politicians in the city they serve, providing them with all the support they can muster, in order to keep themselves in a position where they can continue to do their work. In many cities, their connections to the street-level police officer and detective forces is as close, or closer, than the same officers have with the public they are supposed to serve. As long as there is money, there will be someone willing to look the other way in exchange for it. It sounds bad; it sounds mean; but the reality is that this can, and does, occur.
Because of this local connection, the Federal government has worked to try to stop organized crime. After their many embarrassments, even being unable to put Al Capone into prison for his alcohol sales during prohibition and instead having to jail him for income tax evasion, the federal government has tried to devise laws that would stop this form of criminal activity, often referred to as racketeering.
In 1970, the Racketeer influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was established. Under this law, criminals who meet at least two, out of thirty-five, crimes listed in this act, within a decade, can be charged with racketeering. If a person is found guilty, they face a fine of up to a quarter million dollars, as well as prison time ranging up to 20 years for each count they are convicted of, or any combination of monetary and incarceration penalties, not exceeding the above-mentioned penalties. In addition, the guilty must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business the convicted gained through this racketeering activity. In addition to all of that, any private individual can file a civil suit for double the damages. For the Federal government to use the RICO act, the federal prosecutor must first temporarily freeze and seize a defendant’s assets, in order as to not allow these individuals to use the seized assets in order to pay the fines and damages rendered against them with this money.
The problem with the RICO act is that most criminals charged with this are willing to immediately accept a plea agreement for a lesser charge to avoid the penalties imposed for racketeering. In addition, the seizure of assets by federal prosecutors makes it virtually impossible for the defendant to hire an attorney, causing many judges to demand a plea agreement between the prosecuting body and the defendant, in order to not cause the government unnecessary fees.
This is fine if the goal is to put organized crime bosses behind bars, but not if the goal is to financially get as much back from the criminal as they removed from the economy in the first place. In addition, settling on lesser crimes does not allow a civil suit that will collect double damages for an injured party.
What is truly needed to stop organized crime is something that will stop all of it in its many incarnations. While RICO gives the Federal government a chance to stop the men at the top, it does little to stop the gang crimes, or the drug crimes, that are also part of the racketeering organizations that should be closed. It is easy to say that steps need to be taken so that crime does not pay; but, the fact is, it does pay. For the men at the top, it pays quite lucratively, though for the foot soldiers at the bottom, it does not pay as well. If a place exists to hit the gang and drug portions of organized crime, that location is the foot soldiers: the guys who have to be on the street corner in all kinds of weather, dealing with junkies and prostitutes. Providing them with a well-paying job may make it hard for the man at the top to survive and may well make those types of gang crimes disappear. But, again, going after the foot soldiers with RICO aims for the people without the ability to pay the fines and/or the civil penalties and lets those people who have those means continue business as normal.
Conclusion
After researching organized crime for this paper, the author can only imagine the difficulty global law enforcement faces in this technological society. Today's criminal organizations have become highly sophisticated in committing crime and have equipped themselves with the latest technology and a network of individuals, specializing in these fields and others. Theories and law enforcement practices that once assisted law enforcement with a means to combat crime have been stripped away, only to be replaced by a more politically correct, and unhelpful, way of dealing with law breakers. In the course of this paper, the author looked at organized crime and identified the problems it often presents. The author also showed how the legal limitations associated with combating organized crime have hindered law enforcement and, finally, provided the author’s view on a solution to control organized crime.

References
Levitt, Steven & Stephen Dubner. (2005) Freakonomics. HarperCollins. New York

Organized Crime in the U.S. (2010). Organized Crime and Federal Legislation: 1965-1967. Retrieved September 9, 2010, from http://www.organized-crime.de/OCLAWS.htm
Public Safety Canada. (2006). Working Together to Combat Organized Crime. Retrieved
September 10, 2010, from http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/oc/_fl/ogcrime06_e.pdf
Stephens, M. (1996). Global Organized Crime. Retrieved September 10, 2010, from http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/snyder/globalcrime.htm

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