Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 253–273 | Cite as

Does illegality breed violence? Drug trafficking and state-sponsored protection rackets

  • Richard SnyderEmail author
  • Angelica Duran-Martinez


Illegality does not necessarily breed violence. The relationship between illicit markets and violence depends on institutions of protection. When state-sponsored protection rackets form, illicit markets can be peaceful. Conversely, the breakdown of state-sponsored protection rackets, which may result from well-meaning policy reforms intended to improve law enforcement, can lead to violence. The cases of drug trafficking in contemporary Mexico and Burma show how a focus on the emergence and breakdown of state-sponsored protection rackets helps explain variation in levels of violence both within and across illicit markets.


Drug Trafficking Homicide Rate Criminal Organization Military Government Trafficking Organization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Peter Andreas, Sukriti Issar, Stephen Kosack, Crystal Linkletter, Sebastián Mazzuca, and Joel Wallman for helpful suggestions on this material. Angelica Duran-Martinez’s research in Mexico in 2008 was supported by a Summer Fieldwork Fellowship from the Graduate Program in Development (GPD) at Brown University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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