Organized Crime Within the United States
Organized crime is a widespread topic of concern among many Americans due to its popularity in the media and entertainment industry. The public is aware of its existence, yet is not fully aware of why and how this complex “underworld” exists. In order to fully understand this area of criminology, one must take into account the characteristics of organized crime, the variables that allow organized crime to thrive, its large-scale effects on society, and the measures that have been taken to extinguish organized crime.
The roots of organized crime can be traced back to periods of vast amounts of immigration within the United States. Many of the immigrants sought wealth and prosperity upon their arrivals but inevitably found themselves to be members of the lower class. While some groups, such as the Jews, were able to climb the social ladder, other groups faced hostility and racism, hindering their acquisition of wealth. Their movement toward crime can be explained by Cloward and Ohlin’s Differential Opportunities Theory. This states that there are both legitimate and illegitimate means to achieve desired goals. In the immigrants’ case, they “want what American society offers and expects of all – success – yet they are prevented from legitimately achieving this goal because of opportunity blockage, that is poverty and discrimination” (O’Kane 27). In turn, the immigrants turned to a criminal subculture as means to attain their goals. They began violating an extreme amount of criminal statutes such as extortion, murder, bribery, fraud, narcotics, and labor racketeering.
Thus far, the focus of this topic has been on early groups of organized criminals within the United States. The face of organized crime has changed within the past few decades, however, and is currently in a period of transition. Whereas the Italian-Americans were once the rulers of the underworld, African-American and Hispanic involvement has been on the increase. This cultural shift is significant because it alters the infrastructure of organized crime within the United States. Criminal groups form in different manners than in previous years. Within Italian-American organized crime, kinship is the primary segue into organized crime. Among African-Americans and Hispanics, however, there are two distinct types of linkages among criminals. First are causal relationships, “which serve to introduce individuals to each other and into joint criminal ventures,” the other being criminal relationships, which are “based on a common core of activity in crime” (Ianni 1998).
According to Ianni, there are six types of causal relationships within the networks of organized crime. The first relationship stems from childhood bonds in which the individuals were of the same race and socioeconomic background. The second segue into organized crime comes from the recruitment of talented young boys. There is also a high amount of involvement in organized crime that...