When three or more persons agree to organize themselves or to be organized to carry out, in an ongoing or repeated way, actions which themselves or related to others, have as a goal or result, to commit one or more of the following crimes, they will be prosecuted for that very fact, as members of organized crime.
(Articulo 2, Ley Federal contra la Delincuencia Organizada, 1996; English translation by Bailey and Chabat, 2001)
Organized crime pertains to groups that work together to systematically engage in serious economic offences for the pursuit of monetary gain, specifically extortion and the trade in illegal goods and services.
Thus,any gang or group of criminals organised formally or informallyto extort money, shoplift, steal automobiles or rob banks is partof organised crime regardless of its size or of whether it operateslocally or nationally.
Matthews, R. (1997). "Developing More Effective Strategies for Curbing Prostitution." In R. Clarke (ed.), Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies (2nd ed.). Guilderland, N.Y.: Harrow and Heston.
In both cases the definitionsfocus on the criminals themselves and they differ mainly in termsof size and complexity of organisation (relatively small localgroups as contrasted to a national syn15 dicate) and the natureof the crimes involved (crimes in which there is a perpetratorand a victim and crimes in which illegal goods and services aresupplied to those willing to pay for them).
However, against the background of the public and scientific debate it means that the scope of the concept of organised crime is arbitrarily narrowed down to exclude, for example, criminal structures not directly affected by market dynamics such as criminal fraternities and deviant subcultures and groups engaged in non-market crimes like fraud (von Lampe, 1999; Paoli, 2002).
In the absence of universally accepted defining criteria, it seems that the common ground of organised crime research has to be found not in a mutual understanding of the nature of organised crime but in an agreement on how eventually to reach such a mutual understanding.
It is even questionable whether a scientific definition is attainable at all (van Duyne et al., 2001).
Where 'organised crime' is not just used as a non-committal label, a certain degree of reciprocity of research has only been achieved by either taking mafia imagery as a common measuring rod or by reducing the concept of organised crime to partial aspects, namely illegal markets and illegal enterprises (Smith, 1994).
They arise with any study that sails under the flag of organised crime research, and have to do with the difficulties of translating 'organised crime' from a heterogeneous socio-cultural and political construct into a scientific concept.
So far, attempts to overcome these difficulties have been primarily aimed at finding a generally accepted definition of organised crime.
(Bossard, 1990: 110-111)
Organised crime is the planned commission of criminal offences determined by the pursuit of profit and power which, individually or as a whole, are of considerable importance and involve more than two persons, each with his/her own assigned tasks, who collaborate for a prolonged or indefinite period of time
a) by using commercial or business-like structures,
b) by using force or other means of intimidation or
c) by exerting influence on politics, the media, public administration, judicial authorities or the business sector.
In other words, instead of engaging in circular debates over the nature of organised crime, a research program should be devised that in the end will allow one to come to such a mutual understanding or, alternatively, to a general agreement that the construct of organised crime has no counterpart in social reality and thus is obsolete as an analytical category.
Secret: The "Law of Society" (Omerta) is very strongly enforced and punishment for transgression is death, executed without pity.
Thus, organized crime appears as a parallel society, living out of the legal community, having its own regulations, its own organization, hierarchy and strong discipline, and highly resolved to use all possible means to reach its goal, i.e., maximum profit.
(Cejp, 2008: 37)
Organized crime is defined as crime practiced by an institutional body that comprises a large number of professional individuals who work within it in accordance with a work system that divides the work in very precise, complex, and secret ways, and which is governed by an extremely severe law, whose sanctions go up to and include murder or the perpetration of bodily harm on those who disobey it.
Whereas definitions of organised crime have a tendency frantically to focus on one specific constellation of these aspects, namely, complex criminal organisations using violence and corruption to attain control over illegal markets and legal institutions, it seems preferable to place the emphasis on the fluidity and diversity characterising collective criminal behaviour.
This entails exploring, in as many social and historical settings as possible, how the phenomena in question vary in time and space and in what combinations they appear.