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Organized crime has been a big problem in the US since the 1900s. Among the first organized crime groups to show their strength of power and manipulation of businesses and citizens was the Mafia, in New York City. Since the emergence of the Mafia, many other criminal gangs and organizations came up; these groups use their power to corrupt individuals within businesses so as to gain political and financial strength. Citizens living in the society are tormented on a daily basis by smaller criminal groups that work drug and weapon syndicates. This has been a big challenge on those in governance making them look for effective ways of controlling this menace. In this paper, we will look at the problems and the many relationships that come about because of organized crime, look at the legal limitations relating to combating of organized crime by critically looking at some of the federal laws dealing with organized crime.
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First to gain insight into how organized crime can be controlled, we need to understand its meaning. Organized crime has been legally defined as a widespread organization of professional criminals that depend on illegal activities that are controlled and coordinated through a centralized syndicate. This definition poses the first problem as it differs from state to state, federal to state, and agency to agency, therefore getting a specific definition that is universal to all is hard because the definition is majorly dependent on whom, what or where one may be referring to (Organized crime, 2010).
There are many other problems that organized crime present. Organized crimes destroy the anticipated benefits of the introduction of democracy and market disciplines. This leads to many investors, both foreign and domestic, to lose confidence in the political systems in place therefore becoming less willing to risk their capital. Organized crimes also bring about social and political costs. It leads to a general mistrust of politicians, public servants and state institutions by the public. This reduces the citizens' respect for authority making them be unwilling to abide by the rule of law. In addition, higher crime rates pose a threat to national security, economic development and the general political stability of a nation.
There are also problems of method and evidence, whereby in most cases, investigations into the scale, nature and seriousness of organized crime is hampered by methodological, ideological and political inclinations. Many organized groups operate in very secret and sometimes hostile conditions that make access to informants who are reliable very difficult. In some cases the criminals have associations with respectable and powerful people in the legitimate society that helps them conceal their illegal activities from the law. There are times when information about organized crime brings on board journalistic sources that often times, seek to sensationalize and decontextualize the issue compromising accuracy in the process. All these make this topic of organized crime to be misinterpreted and therefore misunderstood by many (Longo, 2010).
There are many legal limitations that come about with the efforts of combating organized crime. These have the potential to affect the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminal organizations and criminals effectively due to the existence of many loopholes in the legal system. Various states in the US have constitutions that are unique from the rest whereby procedures in one jurisdiction may seriously conflict with the jurisdiction from another state. This makes it very hard for the agencies enforcing the law to apprehend those violating the law. Moreover, these criminals and criminal organizations are usually very much aware of the boundary limitations in place. They therefore use this information as an advantage by operating their businesses without fear and much risk. The strict rules, procedures and regulations that surround states serve as a major drawback to departments of law enforcement and special units. The unfortunate thing about it is that criminals are usually exempted from these very rules, allowing them to use this opportunity to their advantage (Limbaugh, 2010).
There are many laws that have been put in place to combat this issue of organized crimes. One famous law is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Act (RICO) that was enacted in 1970. Under it, there were provisions that said that anyone found to have committed two of the thirty five crimes with a ten year span, was liable to charges of racketeering. Anyone found guilty was to face a fine going up to $250,000 or twenty years in prison for each racketeering count. Guilty individuals were also to forfeit all property gained through illegal means. Furthermore, any private individual was to be allowed to file a civil suit for thrice the damages. But for the federal government to apply the law, the defendant's assets had to be seized first by the US Attorney to make sure that his gang cannot take the money and use it to pay fines or damages. Now the problem with this kind of law is that, it immediately prompts the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to avoid paying fines and damages and an additional jail term. To add on this, the seizure made by the US Attorney makes the hiring of an Attorney very hard. This may appear alright if the goal is to put the bosses of organized crime behind bars, but does not work if the goal is to recover as much from the criminals what they took from the economy. Also the settling of a much lesser charge does not permit a civil suit that will fetch thrice the damages for an injured party (Kelly, Chin, & Schatzberg, 1994).
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Many laws just as the RICO Act try as much to give the government a chance to stop criminal bosses but do very little to stop the crimes of the criminal gangs that are to be eliminated completely. To effectively deal with this issue, law enforcers should target the people on the ground, those who deal with junkies and prostitutes. If this miserable people are given jobs, activities that will enable them earn a living, then it will be hard for their bosses to survive without them, and the gang may slowly die out. Another strategy is for law enforcers to embrace new technology that will deal with the evolving gang activities. Technology will bring about new research in effective detection equipments, prevention and apprehension of criminals. It will allow departments and special units to analyze features of organized crime such as membership, structure and location of criminal gangs. Federal, state, and local governments should also come up with laws and statutes that will force law enforcement agencies to cooperate, to work together in detecting, preventing, and apprehending any group involved in any form of organized crime (Little, 2010).
Organized crime affects every one not just in the US, but all over the world. This therefore calls for concerted efforts in dealing with this issue. The many problems that are brought about by organized crimes can only be eliminated if all limitations to the control of organized crimes will be sorted out. This will call for support from both the common citizen and the political elites so that they can stem out this menace. Internationally, countries need to come together and address this issue so that criminal gangs eventually have no place to thrive.