- All profitable crime is socially organized, but this term is usually reserved for situations where a large number of people in a hierarchical structure are engaged in an on-going pattern of criminal activities. The most common activities are extortion and the provision of illegal goods and services, such as drink, drugs, gambling, money-lending, and prostitution. All of these involve continuous relations with the victims or clients, who have contact with the lower echelons of the organization. To be successful, therefore, organized or syndicated crime involves some degree of corruption or intimidation of the police or other agents of law-enforcement. It is often thought to be synonymous with a secret society, such as the Tongs of the Chinese diaspora, the Camorra of nineteenth-century Naples, the Mafia of Sicily, and Cosa Nostra in the United States. It seems more likely that if such societies exist at all, they do not actually run criminal activities, but rather act as fraternal organizations for some of the racketeers. The myth of the secret society helps the criminals by intimidating victims and helps the authorities because it justifies police ineffectiveness. It is often fuelled by racism, though criminal activities themselves are usually ethnically mixed. Organized crime is associated with violence and threats in the course of extortion, but also in the maintenance of control over subordinates, struggles for power within groups, and struggles for monopoly control between groups.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.
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