Placing a Lock on Organized Crime

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

By C. J. Oakes

The Issue: Organized Crime has grown powerful and governments appear impotent to put a stop to it. Yet, the solution is really quite simple. Take away their money.

Operation Keyhole: 

Placing a Lock on Organized Crime by Drying Revenue Streams

When considering the difference between coin, currency, check, and credit card on can see a vast difference between each form of fiat currency.  However, an even vaster difference exists between the first three and plastic or otherwise electronic currency.  The difference is an issue of power.  Hence, to stem or even eliminate organized crime, one would need to attack the source of its power, money.  Laundering is a major problem for many nations combating organized crime as is counterfeiting.  To stop or stifle such criminal activity, the elimination of certain fiat currency must occur.

Problems and Relationships in Organized Crime

Organized crime generally develops through common identities or shared experiences.  Two examples of this are the Italian Mafia and the Latin Prison gangs.  As criminal enterprises grow, the necessity of finding helpful government officials willing to shield many criminal activities from the prying eyes of investigators grows.  Hence, corruption becomes a vital tool for organized crime groups to continue.

Organised crime - cash flow
Organised crime – cash flow (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Money drives organized crime much as any other business. Dry up revenue streams, and the business dies. One problem however, is that law provides opportunities for criminal elements in society. So as long as there is law, there will be crime.

Another problem faced by honest officials seeking to stem the growth of organized crime involves law.  Many prosecutions proceed according to common-law and in most cases, these are fine.  However, codified law frequently contains numerous contradictions that can be used as loopholes to effective prosecution.  Organized crime figures can often afford teams of attorney’s who understand how to use these loopholes to the advantage of their client.  This occurred often in the many cases against John Gotti (John Gotti, 1992).  Indeed, one of the greatest difficulties faced by law enforcement in this regard is finding a common definition for organized crime (Lyman & Potter, 2007).

Another common problem with investigating and prosecuting Organized Crime is that these groups are just as varied in structure as legal businesses.  The legal business world has sole-proprietors, partnerships, limited partnerships, corporations, trusts, s-corporations, s-partnerships, nonprofits, and so on.  In addition, legal businesses often specialize in law, accounting, sales, security, and so forth.  Organized crime today is known to be just as diverse (Finklea, 2010).

Narco-terrorism is a term derived from a newer kind of organized crime operated by and for terrorist groups.  After the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2011, many streams of revenue dried up for such groups and these turned to trafficking in narcotics.  As of 2010, the international community is recognizing that this form of terrorism is especially dangerous for it is the proverbial two-edged sword (Wang, 2010).  On the one hand, drugs provide funds for the terrorist groups to conduct training and execute plans.  On the other, the drugs are harmful to the citizens enough, but a tainted shipment could result in millions of deaths.

One final problem is the rise of the Internet coupled with greater international cooperation among many organized crime groups worldwide.  The internet has made communication between such groups far easier and the cooperation permits easier corruption and greater security when transporting contraband (Mallory, 2007).

Legal Limitations to Defeating Orgnized Crime

Numerous legal requirements prevent certain law enforcement from pursuing aggressively organized crime members.  One such involves borders.

Organized crime ignores borders; law enforcement cannot.  Organized crime can conduct business in any number of cities, states, and nations.  This creates problems for law enforcement in municipalities, states, and nations (Lyman & Potter, 2007).

For instance, a Chicago investigator may find a case involving organized crime figures in his city to be conducting operations in numerous other cities.  The suspect may live in another city and the Chicago investigator cannot arrest this suspect there.  Naturally, the Chicago investigator can request the local authorities arrest the suspect and have him extradited to his jurisdiction, but this is time-consuming and costly.

Expand the issue internationally and matters become more complicated, especially when a suspect flees to a nation without extradition treaties with the United States (Lyman & Potter, 2007).

Another problem created by legalities is codified law, unlike common law, which acts as a socially accepted principle; codified law is written and concrete.  Codified law cannot be vague; common law can.  Codified law has often superceded common law because the public demands stiffer penalties for offenders (Schmalleger, Hall, & Dolatowski, 2010).

Codified law also plays a large role in the ability of organized crime to exist. Law creates restrictions on society. Many people ignore the laws they do not like. Laws create opportunities for criminal elements seeking quick money. For instance, when tobacco was illegal in Iraq, organized crime brought American cigarettes into the nation via Turkey. The ban created opportunity. After the U.S. invasion, cigarettes became legal and the crime associated with smuggling these into the nation dried up.

The release of many with enough money to afford the best attorneys is also part of the picture.  This is because codified law by nature cannot exist without creating contradictions within; these are often called loopholes.  Through these loopholes, powerful defense teams are able derail the cause of justice; this makes it very difficult to build solid cases against higher ranking members of organized crime.  This is why a clear and universally acceptable definition of organized crime is needed (Scharf, 2004).

Three Solutions to Defeating Organized Crime

Three possible solutions could solve or reduce the problem of organized crime.  The first appears radical, but evidence suggests this is a concept already under consideration by some.  The second is already in operation with a questionable future.  The third is fairly unrealistic given the current attitudes of people; once implemented, the change should only take a generation to effect.

  1. One possibility is to eliminate physical currency.  This would place all control over monetary transactions in the hands of the banks.  Clearly, this solution is fraught with issues, the least of which involves liberty.  However with such a solution in place, it would be impossible to hide completely money trails.  Organized crime would no longer be able to hide transactions and such groups would be easy to locate and prosecute (Warwick, 1992).
  2. Another solution is “simple”:  Create an international police force.  Not so simple.  Any time creating a legislative body, oversight committee, enforcement unit, or any other system that may infringe on the sovereignty of any nation involved, tricky issues must be resolved.  Every nation has its own set of laws that must be balanced in the creation of the new agency.  The new agency must have the power to enforce but meet reasonable limits placed upon it by the nations supporting it.  The new agency would also need the power to enforce anywhere in the world and getting a simple majority of nations to agree on anything is difficult enough (Gerspacher, 2008).
  3. A third solution would be the most effective, but it requires vision and tenacity; it would take a generation to implement.  Many of the problems associated with prosecuting organized and any other crime occurs because America has become a nation of law.  Hence, loopholes abound.  If the national leadership were to implement a program to shift public focus away from law and back to principle, judges could decide cases based on merit again.  Loopholes cannot exist in principles. Loopholes are only found in codified law. A social shift away from codified law and back to common law principles would radically alter the ability of the criminal justice system to fight organized crime (Oakes, 2011).  However, such a system would take time to fully implement in society.


The Problems associated with investigating, capturing, and prosecuting powerful organized crime figures are largely based on artificial restraints on law enforcement.  Without providing law enforcement with the tools to combat this growing menace, there can be no victory against organized crime; growth will continue.  In addition, the simple emphasis on codified law creates opportunities which can be exploited by criminal groups. Finally, it is well-established that organized crime cannot exist without some official corruption; thus the need to consider “legitimate” personnel within government. The issue is complex. Any solution developed therefore requires the cooperation of governments, the support of the people, and time to take effect.

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  • Finklea, K. M. (Dec22, 2010). Organized Crime in the United States: Trends and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service.
  • Gerspacher, N. (May2008) The history of international police cooperation: a 150- year evolution in trends and approaches. Global Crime. 9 (1/2), 169-184
  • John Gotti. U.S. News & World Report, 00415537, 2/3/92, Vol. 112, Issue 4
  • Mallory, S. L. (2007). Understanding Organized Crime. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
  • Oakes, J. (2011). Mayberry Law Chapter One: The Foundation of Law in Mayberry.
  • Scharf, M. P. (Dec2004). Trading Justice for Efficiency. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2 (4), 1070-1081
  • Schmalleger, F., Hall, D. E., & Dolatowski, J.J.  (2010). Criminal law today. (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.
  • Wang, P. (Jun2010). The Crime-Terror Nexus: Transformation, Alliance, Convergence. Asian Social Science. 6 (6), 11-20
  • Warwick, D. R. (Nov/Dec92).  The cash-free society. Futurist. 26 (6), 19-23.

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