|School of Criminal
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
A recent survey of U.S. and foreign police organizations, intelligence agencies, government officials, and corporate security officials targeted organized crime in Eastern Europe. The results strongly suggest rapid growth in Eastern European organized crime which threatens the United States. The survey's most significant findings:
Already, investigations in New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts make it clear that "with the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the subsequent lax emigration policies, Russian criminals have begun to carve out a niche in the United States" (CJ International, July 1992:5). However, knowledge about the extent of activity, types of criminal enterprises, commodities targeted, and best means of infiltrating and investigating these groups is limited.
DEFINING ORGANIZED CRIME
Organized crime was traditionally defined as "familial" crime syndicates like La Cosa Nostra or "the Mafia." Over the past decade, largely as a result of drug trafficking, definitions have broadened to include South American and Asian crime groups like the Medellin and Cali Cartels and the Triads, Tongs, and Yakuza. The basic characteristics of organized crime can be summarized as:
FIGURE 1: CONTINUUM FOR CONTEMPORARY ENTERPRISE CRIME DEVELOPMENT
EMERGING TRENDS IN ORGANIZED
The officials surveyed agreed that organized crime is increasing and changing its focus toward an enterprise model in terms of structure, membership, and commodities. A number of key factors are emerging and should be monitored by those affected by organized crime.
Globalization. Although organized crime has always crossed national borders, it is becoming increasingly international in scope. Transnational criminals are based in one country, but cross international borders to commit crimes. This form of crime has grown in Europe with the near elimination of internal European Community border controls and the opening of Eastern European borders. Autos and consumer goods are the main targets. International crime entails on-going enterprises in two or more countries; drug trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, and the black market are all examples.
New Generation Crime Cartels. As entrepreneurial crime has risen, the 'basic nature of organized crime groups has shifted. Traditionally draw from a narrow group based on heritage, kinship, or other common factors, members usually became career criminals associated with a specific crime group. Entrepreneurial crime groups, on the other hand, depend on a small core of permanent members who bring in others as needed to handle specific assignments.
As one British official explained: "Today's diverse organized crime groups are operationally more like corporate raiders, only the criminals use violence and illegal methods to solidify their market and profit."
The New Russian Threat. Russian organized crime is so pervasive that it now threatens the democratization process and attempts to develop foreign trade. Russian crime syndicates are involved in a range of activities including: drug trafficking; theft of consumer goods, intellectual property, and nuclear materials; and racketeering. Efforts to control Russian organized crime have been hampered by:
Corporate security directors also report increases in industrial espionage
and product counterfeiting. Government officials report an increase in
forged passports used for illegal immigration, credit card and social service
fraud, terrorist travel, and so forth. Two final areas of increasing emphasis
for organized crime are computer-related crimes and high technology targets.
THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES
European law enforcement, intelligence agency, and corporate security sources all predict a growing threat to the United States from Eastern European organized crime groups. Yet, both the private sector and government have done little to develop effective countermeasures.
Given the history of organized crime globally and in the United States and this study's findings, it is likely that Eastern European organized crime will have a major impact on North America. Therefore, it is crucial that policymakers in industry and government take steps to better understand these groups, to identify key "players," to analyze their methods, and to develop effective countermeasures. .
RESPONSES TO THE PROBLEM
Current law enforcement initiatives to combat global organized crime include a range of national and international efforts. The most significant of these are summarized below.
National Criminal Intelligence Service. This British strategic intelligence group focuses on drug trafficking and global crime. Specific attention is directed at Eastern European crime groups.
Europol. The European Community intelligence clearinghouse dealing with all aspects of crime affecting the twelve member states. Although Europol is still in the development stage, it will eventually serve as an important resource for those concerned with global organized crime.
Interpol. The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) is an clearinghouse on crime which provides information to law enforcement agencies worldwide. In addition to its Analytical Criminal Intelligence Unit, Interpol has added four new organized crime analysis units: OSCA for South American crime gangs, MACANDRA for the Italian Mafia, ROCKERS for European outlaw motorcycle groups, and EASTWIND for Asian organized crime groups.
National Law Enforcement Groups.
A number of countries have established special organizations in addition
to their traditional law enforcement agencies to deal with global organized
crime. These include: the Direzione Investigative Antimafia (DIA) in Italy,
the Terrorist Financial Unit (TFU) for Northern Ireland, and the Financial
Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States.
The worldwide shifts in social and political alliances which have expanded the possibilities for global peace and economic activity have paradoxically also opened up new opportunities for international organized crime groups. The threat from drug trafficking and economic crimes (such as theft of intellectual property, industrial espionage, black marketeering, product counterfeiting, and computer-related crime) is increasingly recognized as a matter of national security in the United States and elsewhere.
Perhaps the weakest links in the international law enforcement chain are poor relations and communications between western governments and the former Warsaw Pact nations. This should be a high priority in the future which could be addressed to the advantage of all.
Copy rightã 1994 by David L. Carter. All rights reserved.
For more information, contact David L. Carter, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, 560 Baker Hall, East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1118.