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Discuss the importance of a rigorous definition of organized crime for academia, law enforcement, and policy-making.
"If we do not share a common understanding of organized crime, we are not able to analyze it properly because we are not able to find the necessary theoretical framework." (Feltes 2008)
It is necessary for the academics to know what they are researching for, and law enforcement and policy-makers, need to know what they are fighting in order to come across the most excellent resolution in both state and global level.
Organized crime is a phenomenon that affects our society for many decades as to how it is operating, under what circumstances and its' consequences. It has an impact on how governments organize their law enforcements operation systems, their legal system, and how they later conduct their policy. It also forces governments to spent large amounts to support their campaigns and services against organized crime. Mass media also spent huge amounts of their funds and useful time to cover a case and inform citizens about any incidents that take place and are somehow related with organized crime.
Before we can understand the vast impact organized crime has in our lives and government systems, we must first be able to define what it really is, what are the actions we mean when we mention it and by whom it is operating. As a matter of fact, the problem of understanding and defining organized crime is what makes this phenomenon even more serious and difficult to counter. Organized crime is growing in almost every country with local and international dimensions and influences. In that view, international discussions in the region of definition are taking place and have moved away from the composition to execution and the actual nature of such criminal organizations. The apprehension that all the nations have to work together in order to have a chance to respond against organized crime, has directed to important attempts towards one globally accepted definition. A well defined explanation capable of showing the complication of the organizations, their activities and social impacts, can be the solution in the co-operation against organized crime. (The Problem of Definitions http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/Monographs/No28/Definitions.html).
At this point, there are hundreds of definitions available for organized crime. The German Klaus von Lampe on his website "Organized Crime Research" defines organized crime in more than 150 different ways, from how many authors describe it and how each country formally defines it (http://www.organized-crime.de/OCDEF1.htm). This shows that there is no joint concept of what organized crime is but it seems that everyone has an idea and state an opinion about it. One attempt for an international accepted definition has been applied from the United Nations Convention Against Organized Crime at the article 2 and defines organized crime as "â€¦a structured group of three or more persons existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences in accordance with this Convention in order to obtain, directly or material benefit." (UN) On the other hand, the European Commission Home Affairs states that 'Organized crime is a threat to the citizens and the economy of Europe, to its businesses and state institutions. Criminals operate easily across borders, so there is a need for adequate actions at the European level, the European Union's response is continuously adapting to the growing complexity of the situationâ€¦The EU has to tackle a large variety of specific crimes ( http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/policies/crime/crime_intro_en.htm) Lastly, FBI defines organized crime as "any group having some manner of a formalized structure and whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities. Such groups maintain their position through the use of actual or threatened violence, corrupt public officials, graft, or extortion, and generally have a significant impact on the people in their locales, or the country as a whole." (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/organizedcrime/glossary)
A world accepted definition must be able to include the aspects necessary for academics, law enforcement and policy-making and as it seems from the above definitions, each one specifies different approaches as to what Organized Crime really is. Organized crime has social and economical impacts as well. It has influences in politics, in governing, legal system, academic research and in some cases in our everyday life. For that reason; the variety of grounds that has a sort of an effect on, organized crime has numerous of definitions available to use for each field of study and/or policy making. Some of them can be consider useful and used in an international legal ground, but they might lack other important aspects of the phenomenon besides legal system. Some definitions lay emphasis on certain essential components of the issue, answering some questions while raising many new ones.
A universal definition for Organized Crime will work as a primary tool in the process of eliminating it, or at least reducing it. The importance of the definition is to collect and analyze data and information among different organizations and levels of operations. For the researchers, it is essential to know what they are looking for and what their study is about. Research serves as an instrument to determine what you are going to observe and therefore analyze. The research design is about why and how something happens and it can be applied in either way; exploration, description and explanation (The Basics of Social Research, p.96). Research is design to solve open problems and social concerns with a tool of gathering specific information in order to save time and money for the future. They also suggest their findings in a sense of informing the public, politicians and policy makers and there must be a connection between 'scientific findings" and "real world". Practitioners will take advantage from the scientific knowledge and on the other hand, researchers will receive data and information from the actual practical operation (Francesca Longo.) A world accepted definition of Organized Crime it will be useful in terms of moving towards the invention of valuable understanding seeking at raising the efficiency of the policies leading to the counter organized crime action. The actual lack of a universal definition has consequences for the academic discussions, because if we do not come to a point of sharing a common understanding of the phenomenon, then we are not able to find and analyze it properly and systematically. Even if they come up with researching conclusions, these data and information will be hard to compare and be used by any other institution.
The missing of a global definition also influences law enforcement agencies and policy makers. Many attempts from the practitioners' to successfully fight Organized crime fall short since there is no bear by procedures gained by other fields, especially researching. These agencies must co-operate, exchange information, in order to build up common approaches to effectively act against these forms of crime. If they want to create unique tactics, all the fields have to ensure that the information and data they are exchanging are applying for the same purpose and goal and therefore they have the same understanding of the phenomenon.
When it comes to the policy makers and law enforcement agencies, the definition's weaknesses create many other concerns as well. If we do not have a common understanding of Organized Crime, how we will be positive to identify it and distinguish it from other forms of crime? A formal definition will emphasize not only the structure of each group, the nature and its geographical location, but also the way of actions. They must also define the domestic formation of the organization and the manner of actions in a more comprehensive altitude. At first, organized crime groups, might have their ties in an internal level, they control specific territories many illegal activities such as corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, gabling, robberies and many more (FBI). Furthermore, they need to define the groups' global aspects of several types of crimes which arise across state borders and those criminal activities and interests that are globalised (Francesca Longo).
Given that Organized Crime is not appropriate defined; it is open for mistreatment and unclear usage. It is a term used by politicians, police agencies and police unions to claim further authority for the state and the police, more alternatives to encroach into the rights of citizens, to overcome data protection laws, and to reinforce the function of law enforcement by fading human rights (Thomas Feltes). The increasing of crime and the lack of co-operation among the governmental agencies, results in "power abuse" by the organizations. Their attempt to secure the state and the civilians, affects their sense of moral and ethical lines and they often seem to create fear and a high risk sense within the population. As I mention above, Organized Crime groups act outside their local borders and have global activities and interests. If we take under consideration the European Union, we can assure that a universal definition is more than needed. There are several countries under one union, but with different definitions of Organized Crime for each one, differences in judicial systems and differences on how the law enforcement services are applying, the methods and activities against any type of crime. It is difficult not to have a common understanding of a phenomenon but still co-operate to counter it. There is a boundary line between the International legislation and the national security within each nation. If for example, a certain activity is defined as a felony in one country, it might only be a misdemeanor or a violation in another. To conclude, the need of a common and world accepted definition of Organized Crime is more important now that the phenomenon is taking such extent and is changing in more dangerous tactics and activities. An International definition could be the tool for a successful co-operation among services and nations, public policy purposes and research purposes as well. if we can manage to create a structure body of knowledge that is accumulated over time and from a number of researchers and a variety of studies, there must be some common definition to ensure that when people, politicians, practitioners and researchers mention Organized Crime, they all mention the same thing. To fight Organized Crime, we need to know what the theoretical framework is and what the underlying causes are; something that can be defined through an accepted definition, otherwise we will not be able to fight the actual roots.