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Organized Crime

Characteristics Of Organized Crime

Organized crime groups, whether traditional mob families or street gangs, have a number of common characteristics:

  1. Organized crime thrives on supplying illegal goods and services for which a large number of people are willing to pay. For example, in 1999 an estimated fifteen million Americans used illegal drugs, 75 percent of whom used marijuana.
  2. The goal of organized crime groups is to make money; members also gain a sense of pride, power, and protection.
  3. Groups have what is called a pyramid power structure like legal businesses. In legitimate businesses, there is a boss called the chief executive officer (CEO), under the CEO are vice presidents, treasurers, advisors, accountants, lawyers, technical staff, and so on. Organized crime has a boss, advisors who work closely with the boss and assign tasks to different crews, captains who run the different crews, soldiers who carry out the physical work and act out tasks from collecting money to killing people, and men with special skills.
  4. Members are extremely loyal and committed; they go through initiation rituals, take oaths, and swear to secrecy.
  5. Punishment for members who stray might be demotion to a lower rank or, depending on their offense, death.

During the mid-twentieth century, organized crime in the United States was dominated by the American Mafia whose "godfathers," meaning founders, were of Italian and Sicilian descent. In the latter half of the century, other groups appeared and grew in number, including motorcycle gangs, street gangs, and by the 1990s, organized crime units with home bases in other countries. The remaining portions of this chapter describe types of organized crime units doing business in the United States.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawOrganized Crime - Rico, Organized Crime Offenses, Characteristics Of Organized Crime, Early Las Vegas And The Mafia