Organized crime syndicates can be found around the world, and they are largely responsible for a number of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, human smuggling, and a variety of financial frauds and scams. Some of these organizations are run like international companies, but their illegal nature keeps them underground. But unlike respected corporations, organized crime syndicates use extortion, bribery, and violence to obtain and control power and wealth.
A Brief History of Organized Crime in America
The origins of organized crime in the U.S. can be traced back to New York City in the 1800’s with the Forty Thieves street gang. This gang was made up of hundreds of impoverished Irish-Americans who given criminal assignments to complete each day. The gang thrived for years until it dissolved in the 1850’s and its members joined smaller rival gangs.
A few decades after the demise of the Forty Thieves, Italian-Americans made their mark in the organized crime world with the rise of the Mafia, also known as the American Cosa Nostra. Members of the Mafia made large amounts of money through extortion, drug smuggling, prostitution, and selling stolen goods. The Mafia established itself as an organized crime powerhouse in the 1920’s during the Prohibition when alcohol was outlawed in the United States. The Mafia played a major role in distributing and selling alcohol during this time period.
The 1930’s were a time of extreme violence and bloodshed as organized crime groups fought each other for power. The bold criminal activities of organized crime bosses such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone attracted the attention of the FBI, and cases were built against them. By the end of the decade the Maranzano family established themselves as the most powerful organized crime family in America.
Organized Crime Today
After the 1930’s organized crime continued to flourish, but without the public displays of crime and violence. Organized crime syndicates still employ violence as a means of control, but it is no longer as overt or obvious. Technology has helped organized crime syndicates to gain a global reach, and American organized crime groups now have competition from other crime families from around the world. In addition to domestic crime groups, the FBI also tracks Russian mobsters that relocated to the U.S. after the fall of the U.S.S.R., Asian crime rings with interests in America, organized crime syndicates from African countries like Nigeria that deal in drug trafficking and financial scams, and criminal enterprises based out of Eastern European countries such as Romania and Hungary.
How Organized Crime Affects America
Organized crime is a hindrance on America’s economy in several ways. One popular way for organized crime syndicates to make money is through cigarette trafficking, which can result in a substantial loss of tax revenue at the state and federal level. Tax evasion scams that are popular within organized crime groups can also lead to a decrease in tax revenue.
A number of Russian, Asian, and European crime groups participate in piracy and counterfeiting. Distributing counterfeit and pirated material directly affects the finances of the music and motion picture industry, clothing companies, and luxury goods manufacturers. This problem has become a very big issue in the United States, which prompted the Department of Justice to create an Intellectual Property Task Force in 2004.
The war on drugs in America is being hard fought, but the country is currently losing the battle. Drug trafficking remains one of the most lucrative illegal activity for organized crime groups. It is estimated that 40% of organized crime activity in America is related to drug trafficking, which brings organized crime groups approximately $110 billion annually.
An unfortunate trend in organized crime is the fact that human trafficking has become one of the most profitable illegal activities, with minimal perceived risk. In many cases, human trafficking is tied to prostitution; Americans can be taken from the United States and sent to another country where he or she will be forced into prostitution, or people from other countries can be sent to the United States. In other cases, human trafficking may involve abducting someone and essentially forcing them into slavery by making them work a job in America or abroad for no pay.