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Organized Crime (Организованная преступность) с английского языка на русский
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The second branch of organizational criminality is organized crime—ongoing criminal enterprise groups whose ultimate purpose is personal economic gain through illegitimate means. In this case, a structured enterprise system is set up to supply consumers on a continuing basis with merchandise and services banned by the criminal law but for which a ready market exists: prostitution, pornography, gambling, and narcotics. The system may resemble a legitimate business run by an ambitious chief executive officer, his or her assistants, staff attorneys, and accountants, with highly thorough and efficient accounts receivable and complaint departments.
Because of its secrecy, power, and fabulous wealth, a great mystique has grown up about organized crime. Its legendary leaders—A1 Capone, Meyer Lanskv, Lucky Luciano—have been the subjects of books and films. The famous Godfather films popularized and humanized organized crime figures; the media all too often glamorizes them. Most citizens believe that organized criminals are capable of taking over legitimate business enterprises if given the opportunity. Almost everyone is familiar with such synonyms as the mob, underworld, Mafia, wiseguys, syndicate, or La Cosa Nostra. Although most of us have neither met nor seen members of organized crime families, we feel sure that they exist, and most certainly, we fear them. This section briefly defines organized crime, reviews its history, and discusses its economic effect and control.
Characteristics of Organized Crime
A precise description of the characteristics of organized crime is difficult to formulate, but we can identify some of its general traits:
Organized crime is a conspiratorial activity, involving the coordination of numerous persons in the planning and execution of illegal acts or in the pursuit of a legitimate objective by unlawful means (for example, threatening a legitimate business to get a stake in it). Organized crime requires continuous commitment by primary members, although individuals with specialized skills may be brought in as needed. Crime organizations are usually structured along hierarchical lines— a chieftain supported by close advisers, lower subordinates, and so on.
Organized crime has economic gain as its primary goal, although power and status may also be motivating factors. Economic gain is achieved through maintaining a near monopoly on illegal goods and services, including drugs, gambling, pornography, and prostitution.
Organized crime activities are not limited to providing illicit services. They encompass such sophisticated activities as laundering illegal money through legitimate businesses, land fraud, and computer crimes.
Organized crime employs predatory tactics, such as intimidation, violence, and corruption. It appeals to greed to accomplish its objectives and preserve its gains.
By experience, custom, and practice, organized crime's conspiratorial groups are usually very quick and effective in controlling and disciplining their members, associates, and victims. The individuals involved know that any deviation from the rules of the organization will evoke a prompt response from the other participants. This response may range from a reduction in rank and responsibility to a death sentence.
Organized crime is not synonymous with the "Mafia," the most experienced, most diversified, and possibly best-disciplined of these groups. The Mafia is actually a common stereotype of organized crime. Although several families in the organization called the Mafia are important components of organized crime activities, they do not hold a monopoly on underworld activities.
Organized crime does not include terrorists dedicated to political change. Although violent acts are a major tactic of organized crime, the use of violence does not mean that a group is part of a confederacy of organized criminals.
Activities of Organized Crime
What are the main activities of organized crime? The traditional sources of income are derived from providing illicit materials and using force to enter into and maximize profits in legitimate businesses. Annual gross income from criminal activity is at least $50 billion, more than 1% of the gross national product; some estimates put gross earnings as high as $90 billion, outranking most major industries in the United States. Most organized crime income comes from narcotics distribution (over $30 billion annually), loan-sharking (lending money at illegal rates—S7 billion), and prostitution ($3 billion). However, additional billions come from gambling, theft rings, and other illegal enterprises. For example, the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography concluded that organized crime figures exert substantial influence and control over the pornography industry.
Organized criminals have infiltrated labor unions, taking control of their pension funds and dues. Alan Block has described mob control of the New York waterfront and its influence on the use of union funds to buy insurance, health care, and so on from mob-controlled companies. Hijacking of shipments and cargo theft are other sources of income. One study found that the annual losses due to theft of air cargo amount to S400 million; rail cargo, $600 million; trucking, $1.2 billion; and maritime shipments, $300 million. Underworld figures engage in the fencing of high-value items and maintain international sales territories. In recent years, they have branched into computer crime and other white-collar activities.
Organized Crime and Legitimate Enterprise
Outside of criminal enterprises, additional billions are earned by organized crime figures who force or buy their way into legitimate businesses and use them both for profit and as a means of siphoning off ("laundering") otherwise unaccountable profits. Merry Morash claims that mob control of legitimate enterprise today is influenced by market conditions. Businesses most likely to be affected are low technology (such as garbage collection), have uniform products, and operate in rigid markets where increases in price will not result in reduced demand. In addition, industries most affected by labor pressure are highly susceptible to takeovers because a mob-controlled work stoppage would destroy a product or interfere with meeting deadlines. Morash lists five ways in which organized criminals today become involved in legitimate enterprise: (1) business activity that supports illegal enterprises—for example, providing a front; (2) predatory or parasitic exploitation—for example, demanding protection money; (3) organization of monopolies or cartels to limit competition; (4) unfair advantages gained by such practices as manipulation of labor unions and corruption of public officials; and (5) illegal manipulation of legal vehicles, particularly stocks and bonds.
These traits show how organized crime is more like a business enterprise than a confederation of criminals seeking to merely enhance their power. Nowhere has this relationship been more visible than in the 1985 scandal that rocked the prestigious First National Bank of Boston. Federal prosecutors charged that the bank made unreported cash shipments of $1.2 million. It received $529,000 in small bills and sent $690,000 in bills of $100 or more. The bank was fined $500,000 for violating a law that requires banks to report any cash transaction of $10,000 or more. The bank's transaction came under scrutiny during an FBI investigation of the Angiulo crime family, which bought more than $41.7 million in cashier's checks from the bank.
The First National scandal illustrates that organized crime today involves a cooperative relationship among big business, politicians, and racketeers. The relationship is an expensive one: It has been estimated that organized crime activities stifle competition, resulting in the loss of 400,000 jobs and $18 billion in productivity. And since organized crime's profits go unreported, the rest of the population pays an extra $6.5 billion in taxes.
The Concept of Organized Crime
The term organized crime conjures up images of strong men in dark suits, machine-gun-toting bodyguards, rituals of allegiance to secret organizations, professional "gangland" killings, and meetings of "family" leaders who chart the course of crime much like the board members at General Motors decide on the country's transportation needs. These images have become part of what criminologists refer to as the alien conspiracy theory concept of organized crime. This is the belief, adhered to by the federal government and many respected criminologists, that organized crime is a direct offshoot of a criminal society—the Mafia—that first originated in Italy and Sicily and now controls racketeering in major U.S. cities. A major premise of the alien conspiracy theory is that the Mafia is centrally coordinated by a national committee that settles disputes, dictates policy, and assigns territory. Not all criminologists believe in this narrow concept of organized crime, and many view the alien conspiracy theory as a figment of the media's imagination. Instead, they characterize organized crime as a group of ethnically diverse gangs or groups who compete for profit in the sale of illegal goods and services or who use force and violence to extort money from legitimate enterprises. These groups are not bound by a central national organization but act independently on their own turf. We will now examine each of these two perspectives in some detail.
Alien Conspiracy Theory: La Cosa Nostra
According to the alien conspiracy theory, organized crime really consists of a national syndicate of 25 or so Italian- dominated crime families that call themselves La Cosa Nostra. The major families have a total membership of about 1,700 "made men," who have been inducted into organized crime families, and another 17,000 "associates," who are criminally involved with syndicate members. The families control crime in distinct geographic areas. New York City, the most important organized crime area, alone contains five families—the Gambino, Columbo, Luc- chese, Bonnano, and Genovese families—named after their founding "godfathers." In contrast, Chicago contains a single mob organization called the "outfit," which also influences racketeering in such cities as Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Phoenix. The families are believed to be ruled by a "commission" made up of the heads of the five New York families and bosses from Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The commission settles personal problems and jurisdictional conflicts and enforces rules that allow members to gain huge profits through the manufacture and sale of illegal goods and services (see Figure).
How did this concept of a national crime cartel develop? The first "organized" gangs consisted of Irish immigrants who made their home in the slum districts of New York City. The Forty Thieves, considered the first New York gang with a definite, acknowledged leadership, were muggers, thieves, and pickpockets on the Lower East Side of Manhattan from the 1820s to just before the Civil War. Around 1890, Italian immigrants began forming gangs modeled after the Sicilian crime organization known as the Mafia; these gangs were called the Black Hand. In 1900, Johnny Torrio, a leader of New York's Five Points gang, moved to Chicago and helped in the Chicago area. Other gangs also flourished in Chicago, including those of Hymie Weiss and "Bugs" Moran. A later leader was the infamous A1 "Scar- face" Capone. The turning point of organized crime was the onset of Prohibition and the Volstead Act. This created a multimillion-dollar bootlegging industry overnight. Gangs vied for a share of the business, and bloody wars for control of rackets and profits became common. However, the problems of supplying liquor to thousands of illegal drinking establishments (speakeasies) required organization and an end to open warfare.
In the late 1920s, several events helped create the structure of organized crime. First, Johnny Torrio became leader of the Unione Siciliano, an ethnic self-help group that had begun as a legitimate enterprise but had been taken over by racketeers. This helped bring together the Chicago and New York crime groups; and since Torrio was Italian, it also spurred the beginnings of detente between Italians and Sicilians, who had been at odds with one another. Also during the 1920s, more than 500 members of Sicilian gangs fled from Europe to the United States to avoid prosecution; these new arrivals included future gang leaders Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci, Stefano Magga- dino, and Joseph Bonnano.
In December 1925, gang leaders from across the nation met in Cleveland to discuss strategies for mediating their differences nonviolently and for maximizing profits. A similar meeting took place in Atlantic City in 1929 and was attended by 20 gang leaders, including Lucky Luciano, A1 Capone, and "Dutch" Schultz. Despite such efforts, however, gang wars continued into the 1930s. In 1934, according to some accounts, another meeting in New York, called by Johnny Torrio and Lucky Luciano, led to the formation of a national crime commission and acknowledged the territorial claims of 24 crime families around the country. This was considered the beginning of La Cosa Nostra.
Under the leadership of the national crime commission, organized crime began to expand in a more orderly fashion. Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was dispatched to California to oversee West Coast operations. The end of Prohibition required a new source of profits, and narcotics sales became the mainstay of gangland business. A1 Polizzi, a Cleveland crime boss, formed a news service that provided information on horse racing, thereby helping create a national network of gang-dominated bookmakers. After World War II, organized crime families began using their vast profits from liquor, gambling, and narcotics to buy into legitimate businesses, such as entertainment, legal gambling in Cuba and Las Vegas, hotel chains, jukebox concerns, restaurants, and taverns. By paying off politicians, police, and judges and by using blackmail and coercion, organized criminals became almost immune to prosecution. The machine-gun-toting gangster had given way to the businessman-racketeer. In the 1950s, cooperation among gangland figures reached its zenith. Gang control over unions became widespread, and many legitimate businesses made payoffs to promote labor peace. New gang organizations arose in Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Dallas.
In 1950, the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, better known as the Kefauver Committee (after its chairman), was formed to look into organized crime. It reported the existence of a national crime cartel whose members cooperated to make a profit and engaged in joint ventures to eliminate enemies. The Kefauver Committee also made public the syndicate's enforcement arm, Murder Inc., which, under the leadership of Albert Anasta- sia, disposed of enemies for a price. The committee also found that corruption and bribery of local political officials were widespread. This theme was revived by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, better known as the Mc- Clellan Committee, in its investigation of the role organized crime played in labor racketeering. The committee and its chief counsel, Robert Kennedy, uncovered a close relationship between gang activity and the Teamsters Union, then led by Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa's disappearance and assumed death has been linked to his gangland connections. Later investigations by the committee produced the testimony of Joseph Valachi, former underworld "soldier," who detailed the inner workings of La Cosa Nostra. The leaders of the national crime cartel at this time were Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Bonnano, and Joseph Profaci, all of New York; Sam Giancana of Chicago; and Angelo Bruno of Philadelphia.
During the next 15 years, gang activity expanded further into legitimate businesses. Nonetheless, gangland jealousy, competition, and questions of succession produced an occasional flare-up of violence. The most well- publicized conflict occurred between the Gallo brothers of Brooklyn—Albert, Larry, and Crazy Joe—and the Profaci crime family. The feud continued through the 1960s, uninterrupted by the death of Joseph Profaci and the new leadership of his group by Joe Colombo. Eventually, Colombo was severely injured by a Gallo hired assassin, and in return Joey Gallo was killed in a New York restaurant, Umberto's Clam House. Gallo's death once again brought peace in the underworld. Emerging as the most powerful syndicate boss was Carlo Gambino, who held this position until his death by natural causes in 1976.
In sum, the alien conspiracy theory sees organized crime as being run by an ordered group of ethnocentric (primarily of Italian origin) criminal syndicates, maintaining unified leadership and shared values. These syndicates are in close communication with one another and obey the decisions of a national commission charged with settling disputes and creating crime policy.
The Mafia Myth
Some scholars charge that the Cosa Nostra version of organized crime is fanciful. They argue that the alien conspiracy theory is too heavily influenced by media accounts and by the testimony of a single person, mobster Joseph Valachi, before the McClellan Committee. Valachi's description of La Cosa Nostra was relied on by conspiracy theorists as an accurate portrayal of mob activities. Yet critics question its authenticity and direction. For example, criminologist Jay Albanese compared Valachi's statements to those of another mob informer, Jimmy Frantianno, and found major discrepancies with respect to the location and size of organized criminal activity.
The challenges to the alien conspiracy theory have produced alternative views of organized crime. For example, Philip Jenkins and Gary Potter studied organized crime in Philadelphia and found little evidence that this supposed "Mafia stronghold" was controlled by an Italian-dominated crime family. Sociologist Alan Block has argued that organized crime is both a loosely constructed social system and a social world that reflects the existing U.S. system, not a tightly organized national criminal syndicate. The system is composed of "relationships binding professional criminals, politicians, law enforcers, and various entrepreneurs." In contrast, the social world of organized crime is often chaotic because of the constant power struggle between competing groups. Block rejects the idea that an all- powerful organized crime commission exists and instead views the world of professional criminals as one shaped by the political economy. Block found that independent crime organizations can be characterized as either enterprise syndicates or power syndicates. The former are involved in providing services and include madams, drug distributors, bookmakers, and so on. These are "workers in the world of illegal enterprise." They have set positions with special tasks to perform if the enterprise system is to function. In contrast, power syndicates perform no set task except to extort or terrorize. Their leaders can operate against legitimate business or against fellow criminals who operate enterprise syndicates. Through coercion, buyouts, and other similar means, power syndicates graft themselves onto enterprise systems, legal businesses, trade unions, and so on.
Block's view of organized crime is revisionist since it portrays mob activity as a quasi-economic enterprise system swayed by social forces and not a tightly knit, unified cartel dominated by ethnic minorities carrying out European traditions. His world of organized crime is dominated by business leaders, politicians, and union leaders who work hand in hand with criminals. Moreover, the violent, chaotic social world of power struggles does not lend itself to a tightly controlled syndicate.
Organized Crime Groups
Even such devoted alien conspiracy advocates as the U.S. Justice Department now view organized crime as a loose confederation of ethnic and regional crime groups, bound together by a commonality of economic and political objectives. Some of these groups are located in fixed geographical areas. For example, the so-called Dixie Mafia operates in the South. Chicano crime families are found in areas with significant Hispanic populations, such as California and Arizona. White-ethnic crime organizations are found across the nation. Some Italian and Cuban groups operate internationally. Some have preserved their past identity, while others are constantly changing.
One important recent change in organized crime is the interweaving of ethnic groups into the traditional structure. African American, Hispanic, and Asian racketeers now compete with the more traditional groups, overseeing the distribution of drugs, prostitution, and gambling in a symbiotic relationship with old-line racketeers. Since 1970, Russian and Eastern groups have been operating on U.S. soil. As many as 2,500 Russian immigrants are believed to be involved in criminal activity, primarily in Russian enclaves in New York City. Beyond extortion from immigrants, Russian organized crime groups have cooperated with Mafia families in narcotics trafficking, fencing of stolen property, money laundering, and other "traditional" organized crime schemes As the traditional organized crime families drift into legitimate businesses, the distribution of contraband on the street is handled by newcomers, characterized by Francis Ianni as "urban social bandits.
Have these newly emerging groups achieved the same level of control as traditional crime families? Some experts argue that minority gangs will have a tough time involves working with government officials and unions, that traditional crime families enjoyed.
As law enforcement pressure has been put on traditional organized crime figures, other groups have filled the vacuum. For example, the Hells Angels motorcycle club is now believed to be one of the leading distributors of narcotics in the United States. Similarly, Chinese criminal gangs have taken over the dominant role in New York City's heroin market from the traditional Italian-run syndicates.
In sum, most experts now agree that it is simplistic to view organized crime in the United States as a national syndicate that controls all illegitimate rackets in an orderly fashion. This view seems to ignore the variety of gangs and groups, their membership, and their relationship to the outside world. Mafia-tvpe groups may play a major role in organized crime, but they are by no means the only ones that can be considered organized criminals.
Organized Crime Abroad
The United States is not the only country that confronts organized criminal gangs. The Cali and Medellin drug cartels in Colombia are world famous for both their vast drug trafficking profits and their unflinching use of violence to achieve their objectives. When Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin cartel, was captured and killed by police and soldiers on December 2, 1993, experts predicted that drug smuggling would increase with the shift of the cocaine trade to the control of the smoother and more business-like Cali cartel.
Drug-dealing gangs are not the only form of organized crime abroad. Japan has a long history of organized criminal activity by Yakuza gangs. In 1993 officials of the Kirin Brewety, Japan's largest beer maker, resigned after allegations were made that they paid over 33 million yen in sokaiya—extortion money—to racketeers who threatened their business In China, organized gangs use violence to enforce contracts between companies, serving as an alternative to the legal system. They also help smuggle many of the 100,000 mainland Chinese who enter the United States each year. In June 1993, a Chinese ship packed with illegal immigrants foundered off the coast of New York, and ten of them drowned.
Russia has been beset by organized crime activity since the breakup of the Soviet Union. As of 1993, an estimated 3,000 criminal gangs were active in Russia. Bloody shoot- outs have become common as gangs attempt to stake out territory and extort businesses. In one incident, an auto dealership was attacked and two security guards killed when the owner failed to pay protection money.
Computer and communications technology has fostered international cooperation among crime cartels. East European and Russian gangs sell arms seized from the former Soviet Army to members of the Sicilian Mafia; Japanese and Italian mob members have met in Paris; drug money from South America is laundered in Canada and England.
Controlling Organized Crime
George Void argued that the development of organized crime parallels early capitalist enterprises. Organized crime uses ruthless and monopolistic tactics to maximize profits; it is also secretive and protective of its operations and defensive against any outside intrusion. Consequently, controlling its activities is extremely difficult.
The federal and state governments actually did little to combat organized crime until fairly recently. One of the first measures aimed directly at organized crime was the Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises Act (Travel Act) The Travel Act prohibits travel in interstate commerce or use of interstate facilities with the intent to promote, manage, es- rablish, carry on, or facilitate an unlawful activity; it also prohibits the actual or attempted engagement in these activities. In 1970 Congress passed the Organized Crime Control Act (see the Close-Up on forfeiture for some of its provisions). Title IX of the act, probably its most effective measure, has been the
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO)
RICO did not create new categories of crimes but rather new categories of offenses in racketeering activity, which it defined as involvement in two or more acts prohibited by 24 existing federal and 8 state statutes. The offenses listed in RICO include such state-defined crimes as murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, and narcotic violations and such federally defined crimes as bribery, counterfeiting, transmission of gambling information, prostitution, and mail fraud.
RICO is designed to limit patterns of organized criminal activity by prohibiting involvement in an act intended to
Derive income from racketeering or the unlawful collection of debts and to use or invest such income
Acquire through racketeering an interest in or control over any enterprise engaged in interstate or foreign commerce
Conduct business enterprises through a pattern of racketeering
Conspire to use racketeering as a means of making income, collecting loans, or conducting business
An individual convicted under RICO is subject to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Additionally, the accused must forfeit to the U.S. government any interest in a business in violation of RICO. These penalties are much more potent than simple conviction and imprisonment. To enforce these policy initiatives, the federal government created the Strike Force Program. This program, operating in 18 cities, brings together various state and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors to work as a team against racketeering. Several states, including New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico, have created their own special investigative teams devoted to organized criminal activity.
These efforts began to pay off more than a decade ago when in April 1985 a New York-based strike force successfully obtained indictments against members of the Luc- chese, Genovese, and Bonnano families. The investigation also uncovered evidence to support the national crime cartel concept. Similar sweeps were conducted in Boston, Chicago, and Miami during the remainder of the decade. From 1985 to 1987 many major organized crime figures were indicted, convicted, and imprisoned, including Gen- naro Angiulo, second in command in New England, who received a 45-year sentence; Tony Salerno, Tony Corallo, Carmine Persico, and Gennaro Langella of the New York families, who each got 100 years in prison; and Nicodemo Scarfo of Philadelphia, who got 14 years for extortion. The arrest and imprisonment of John Gotti, the so-called "Dapper Don," was a firm illustration of the decline of white- ethnic organized crime families and their replacement with emerging groups. Some of these convictions are now in question because of allegations that the FBI secretly uses mobsters as informants to gain warrants.
The Future of Organized Crime
Indications exist that the traditional organized crime syndicates are in decline. Law enforcement officials in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New England, New Orleans, Kansas City, Detroit, and Milwaukee all report that years of federal and state interventions have severely eroded the Mafia organizations in their areas What has caused this alleged erosion of Mafia power? First, a number of thereigning family heads are quite old, in their 70s and 80s, prompting some law enforcement officials to dub them, "the Geritol gang." A younger generation of mob leaders is stepping in to take control of the families, and there are indications they lack the skill and leadership of the older bosses. In addition, active government enforcement policies have halved what the estimated made membership was 20 years ago; a number of the highest-ranking leaders have been imprisoned. Additional pressure comes from newly emerging ethnic gangs that want to "muscle in" on traditional syndicate activities, such as drug sales and gambling. For example, Chinese Triad gangs have been active in New York and California in the drug trade, loan-sharking, and labor racketeering. Other ethnic crime groups include black and Colombian drug cartels and the Sicilian Mafia, which operates independently of U.S. groups.
The Mafia has also been hurt by changing values in U.S. society. White, ethnic inner-city neighborhoods, which were the locus of Mafia power, have been reduced in size as families move to the suburbs. Organized crime groups have consequently lost their political and social base of operations. In addition, the "code of silence," which served to protect Mafia leaders, is now being broken regularly by younger members who turn informer rather than face prison terms. For example, the reign of John Gotte, the most powerful mob boss in New York, was ended by testimony given at his murder trial by his one-time ally Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. It is also possible that success has hurt organized crime families; younger members are better educated than their forebears and equipped to seek their fortunes through legitimate enterprise.
Jay Albanese, a leading expert on organized crime, predicts that pressure by the federal government will encourage organized crime figures to engage in "safer" activities, such as credit card and airline ticket counterfeiting and illicit toxic waste disposal. Instead of running illegal enterprises, established families may be content with financing younger entrepreneurs and channeling or laundering profits through their legitimate business enterprises. There may be greater effort among organized criminals in the future to infiltrate legitimate business enterprises to obtain access to money for financing and the means to launder illicitly obtained cash. Labor unions and the construction industry have been favorite targets in the past.
While these actions are considered a major blow to Italian-dominated organized crime cartels, they are unlikely to stifle criminal entrepreneurship. As long as vast profits can be made from selling narcotics, producing pornography, or taking illegal bets, many groups stand ready to fill the gaps and reap the profits of providing illegal goods and servises. It is likely that the New York and Chicago mobs, with a combined total of almost 1,500 made members, will continue to ply their trade.
White-collar and organized criminals are similar because they both use ongoing illegal business enterprises to make personal profits. There are several types of white-collar crime. Stings and swindles involve the use of deception to bilk people out of their money. Chiseling customers, businesses, or the government on a regular basis is a second common type of white-collar crime. Surprisingly, many professionals engage in chiseling offenses. Other white-collar criminals use their positions in business and the marketplace to commit economic crimes. Their crimes include exploitation of position in a company or the government to secure illegal payments; embezzlement and employee pilferage and fraud; client fraud; and influence peddling and bribery. Further, corporate officers sometimes violate the law to improve the position and profitability of their businesses. Their crimes include price fixing, false advertising, and environmental offenses. More recently, computers have been used to commit high-tech crimes.
So far, little has been done to combat white-collar crimes. Most offenders do not view themselves as criminals and therefore do not seem to be deterred by criminal statutes. Although thousands of white-collar criminals are prosecuted each year, their numbers are insignificant compared with the magnitude of the problem. The government has used various law enforcement strategies to combat white-collar crime. Some involve deterrence, which uses punishment to frighten potential abusers. Others involve economic or compliance strategies, which create economic incentives to obey the law.
The demand for illegal goods and services has produced a symbiotic relationship between the public and an organized criminal network. Although criminal gangs have existed since the early 19th century, their power and size were spurred by the Volstead Act and Prohibition in the 1920s. Organized crime supplies alcohol, gambling, drugs, prostitutes, and pornography to the public. It is immune from prosecution because of public apathy and because of its own strong political connections. Organized criminals used to be white ethnics—Jews, Italians, and Irish—but today African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other groups have become included in organized crime activities. The old-line "families" are more likely to use their criminal wealth and power to buy into legitimate businesses.
There is debate over the control of organized crime. Some experts believe there is a national crime cartel that controls all activities. Others view organized crime as a group of disorganized, competing gangs dedicated to extortion or to providing illegal goods and servises. Efforts to control organized crime have been stepped up. The federal government has used antiracketeering statutes to arrest syndicate leaders. But as long as there are vast profits to be made, illegal enterprises will continue to flourish.