Skip to main content

Problems of definition: What is organized crime?

Abstract

What do most people, or at least most Americans, think of when they hear, see, or read the term “organized crime”? What do they know about it? And from whence do they get their information? What about law enforcement practitioners, prosecutors, judges, and politicians? And, what about academics and journalists, the folks who study and write about organized crime? Agreeing upon a commonly accepted definition of just what is organized crime has been a continuing problem for both research and policy. The discussion that follows addresses various dimensions of this problem, looks at the implications, and makes certain recommendations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adamoli, S., A. Di Nicola, W.U. Savona, and P. Zoffi. Organised Crime around the World, Helsinki, Finland: Heuni, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Albini, J. The American Mafia: Genesis of a Legend, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Beare, Margaret E. and Frederick T. Martens. “Policing Organized Crime: The Comparative Structures, Traditions and Policies Within the United States and Canada,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 14(4) (November 1998): 398–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bingsong, He. “Organized Crime: A Perspective from China,” in Jay S. Albanese, Dilip -K. Das, and Arvind Verma (eds.), Organized Crime:World Persperctives, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Chambliss, William J. On the Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents, Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University, published 1978; Second Edition 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chin, Ko-lin. “Transnational Organized Crime Activities.” Paper presented at International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council conference in Courmayer, Italy, September 25–27, 1998. Available: School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University.

  7. Clarke, Ronald V. and Rick Brown. “International Trafficking in Stolen Vehicles,” Crime and Justice 30 (2003): 197–223.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Conseil de l'Europa, Comité d'experts sur les aspects de droit penal et las aspects criminologiques de la criminalité (PC-CO), Questionnaire: Strasbourg, France, August 1997.

  9. di Argentine, Adolfo Beria. “The Mafias in Italy,” in Ernesto U. Savona (ed.), Mafia Issues: Analyses and proposals for combating the mafia today, International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council of the United Nationals Crime and Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (ISPAC), 1992.

  10. Eck, John W. and Jeffrey G. Gersh. “Drug Trafficking as a Cottage Industry,” in Mangai Natarajan and Mike Hough (eds.), Illegal Drug Markets: From Research to Prevention Policy, Vol. 11 of Crime Prevention Studies, Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press, 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hagan, Frank E. “The Organized Crime Continuum: A Further Specification of a New Conceptual Model,” Criminal Justice Review 8 (1983): 52–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Healy, Patrick. “Investigators Say Fraud Ring Staged Thousands of Crashes,” New York Times (August 12, 2003): Al.

  13. Hess, Henner. Mafia and Mafiosi: The Structure of Power, Lexington, MA: Heath Lexington Books, 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Ianni, Francis and Elizabeth Ruess-Ianni. “A Family Business: Business and Societal Organization in the Lupollo Family,” in Ianni and Ruess-Ianni (eds.), The Crime Society: Organized Crime and Corruption in America, New York: Times-Mirror, 1976: 239–254.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Jacobs, James B., Coleen Friel, and Robert Radick. Gotham Unbound, New York and London: New York University Press, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Maltz, Michael. “Toward Defining Organized Crime,” in H.E. Alexander and G. Caiden (eds.), The Politics and Economics of Organized Crime, Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  17. —. Measuring the Effectiveness of Organized Crime Control Efforts, Chicago: Office of International Criminal Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  18. —. “Defining Organized Crime,” in Robert J. Kelly, Ko-Lin Chin, and Rufus Schatzberg (eds.), Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States, Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Natarajan, Mangai and Mathieu Belanger. “Varieties of Drug Trafficking Organizations: A Typology of Cases Prosecuted in New York City,” Journal of Drug Issues 28, 1998: 1005–1026.

    Google Scholar 

  20. National Research Council. Transnational Organized Crime: Summary of a Workshop, Washington, DC: National Academy Press (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Orlando, Leoluca. Fighting the Mafia and Renewing Sicilian Culture, San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  22. President's Commission on Organized Crime. “The Impact: Organized Crime Today,” Washington DC: Government Printing Office 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Reuter, Peter. “Research on American Organized Crime,” in Robert B. Kelly, Ko-lin Chin, and Rufus Schatzberg (eds.), Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Schneider, Jane C. and Peter T. Schneider. Reversible Destiny, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Shelling, T. “What is the Business of Organized Crime?” in R. Ianni and E. Ruess-Ianni (eds.), The Crime Society—Organized Crime and Corruption in America, New York: Times-Mirror, 1976: 69–82.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Smith, Dwight. The Mafia Mystique, New York: Basic Books, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Tilly, Charles. Foreword to Anton Blok, The Mafia of a Sicilian Village, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  28. United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Excerpt in Trends in Organized Crime, 5:4 (Summer 2000).

  29. United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention. “Assessing Transnational Organized Crime: Results of a Pilot Survey of 40 Selected Organized Criminal Groups in 16 Countries,” Trends in Organized Crime 6:2 (Winter 2000): 48–49.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Von Lampe, Klaus. “The Trafficking in Untaxed Cigarettes in Germany: A Case Study of the Social Embeddedness of Illegal Markets,” in P.C. von Duyne, K. von Lampe, N. Passas (eds.), Upperworld and Underworld in Cross-Border Crime, Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2002: 141–161.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Finckenauer, J.O. Problems of definition: What is organized crime?. Trends Organ Crim 8, 63–83 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-005-1038-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Organize Crime
  • Criminal Group
  • Organize Crime Group
  • Legal Definition
  • Criminal Network