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Relationship Between Organized Crime and DrugsTerm Paper

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¶ … organized crime and drugs is a natural one, and it has a lot going for it. After all, despite the expenditure of enormous amounts of money and manpower, the war on drugs has been largely ineffective in reducing the amounts of drug entering the United States or usage patterns once they get here, indicating that organized crime knows what it is doing. Moreover, from a strictly pragmatic and harm-reduction view, organized crime typically provides a superior product compared to fly-by-night dealers who may adulterate their products with toxic and evenly deadly ingredients. Like the ineffective efforts to stop alcohol use through the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition in 1919, law enforcement today remains frustrated in its efforts to combat drug use simply because the criminals who are involved are in fact organized. To gain a better understanding of the relationship between organized crime and drugs, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

In reality, drugs would likely continue to flow into the United States and other countries where the demand is high to some extent with or without the involvement of organized crime. There will always be entrepreneurs who are willing to gamble on the risks involved in drug manufacture and smuggling based on the enormous monetary gains that can be realized through the process. These risks are significant across the entire range of the drug operation, though. While illegal drug operations are affected by the same operational expenses and problems experienced by legitimate business models such as personnel costs, transportation, legal expenses (especially legal expenses), office and warehousing and other overhead costs, each of these costs is substantially higher and each introduces a potential weakness in the overall operation that can result in undesirable outcomes. Entrepreneurs, for example, do not enjoy the same protective infrastructure that organized criminals have in place, and those who would manufacture, transport and market illegal drugs without such an infrastructure run the risk of being robbed and/or killed at any step in the process, and most would be unlikely to involve law enforcement for protection for obvious reasons. In this environment, the relationship between organized crime and drugs can be viewed in the same fashion as any business model wherein an enterprise offers a product or service in exchange for an established return.

According to Kelly (1994), organized crime goes by a number of names and terms such as the mafia, costar nostra, the mob and so forth, but more precision is needed to develop informed views concerning what organized crime is in reality and what part it plays in the overall incidence of crime in a country. In this regard, Kelly reports that, "From a law enforcement perspective, progress in understanding organized crime occurs when the machinery of description is refined, when its definitions, categories, levels, and so on have been brought into a closer correspondence with the facts" (1994, p. 6). Conversely, Kelly (2000) adds that such a level of understanding is constrained when the definitions are biased based on the individual perceptions of the observers involved or groups with an ulterior agenda.

The inextricable relationship between drugs and organized crime that exists today is the legacy of almost a century's or more worth of efforts by criminal syndicates of one form or another to introduce the broad range of illicit drugs that have historically been the most popular, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine (and its ugly cousin crack), methamphetamine and so forth. From a strictly business perspective, it is in organized crime's best interests to maintain peaceful operations because "blood costs money." For instance, Kelly (2000) cites that case of Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, also known as "Mr. Untouchable," a leading figure in heroin distribution in Harlem during the 1970. According to Kelly (2000), Barnes recognized that wars between rival gangs over drug-selling territory was counterproductive not only because of the blood that was spilled in the process, but the unwanted attention it attracted from law enforcement authorities. By the late 20th century, though, this business model had been replaced by one that was characterized by violence and gangs that were ready and willing to engage in violence to further their own interest (Kelly, 2000).

More recently, organized criminals from Asian countries such as Korean, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines have become increasingly active in drug operations the United States; however, these groups typically provide smaller amounts of drugs than their Latin American counterparts because of fewer numbers and a less formal organization (Kelly, 2000). There are even some specialties involved in these business operations based on core competencies. For instance, Kelly (2000) notes that in the Chicago area, organized criminals from Korea specialize in drug trafficking, but restrict their efforts to their own communities. Likewise, organized criminals from Thailand and Laos have their drug-related specialties, with the Laotians and Thais specializing in heroin and Filipino gangs specializing in methamphetamine and cocaine (Kelly, 000).

The "organized" aspects of organized crime can be easily discerned from reports such as one provided by Knowles (2008) concerning efforts to combat drugs trafficking between Mexico and the United States in recent years. On the one hand, Knowles reports that, "By cooperating in law-enforcement and military drug-interdiction operations, Mexico and the United States have created substantial difficulties for traffickers" (2008, p. 74). On the other hand, though, Knowles also emphasizes that the battle of wits between organized crime and law enforcement authorities continued unabated, with criminals continuously developing countermeasures to newly implemented approaches to interdiction developed by law enforcement. Such countermeasures include sophisticated and secure telecommunications devices, innovative drug concealment and smuggling methods as well as expensive equipment such as air transportation and even landing fields in remote locations (Knowles, 2008).

The impact of these illegal drugs on the American population, as well as the populations of leading European nations such as France, the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent Germany and the Netherlands, has been profound, and methamphetamine use in particular continues to increase across the board in many regions due to increasingly sophisticated manufacture and transportation methods. Indeed, given the advantages that modern telecommunications and transportation have given organized crime in conducting drug operations, it is not surprising that the incidence of transnational organized crime has been on the increase in recent years. In this regard, Shelley (2000) emphasizes that while the problem has not yet reached the point where the stability of national governments is threatened, it is getting close.

Absent more aggressive tactics on the part of law enforcement to combat organized crime within and across national borders, Shelley (2000) warns that organized crime may grow to the point where it threatens the world order. In this regard, Shelley (2000) emphasizes the need to formulate law enforcement approaches in collaboration with the international community that take into account the transnational aspects of the enterprise as well as the innovative approaches being used to move drugs into the United States. Absent such cooperative, broad-based efforts, Shelley cautions that the conventional nation-state may become obsolete in the 21st century. This caution has assumed special significance in the post-September 11, 2001 environment because terrorist groups have increasingly relied on the same types of drug manufacture and distribution methods used by organized crime to fund their own criminal enterprises (Friman, 2003). The inextricable relationship between drugs and terrorism is also specifically evident for the same reasons as they are applicable to organized crime in general. In this regard, Fazey (2007), "The inevitable association with organized crime and terrorism is evident: Organized crime can exist without drug trafficking but the reverse is not true. Drugs can be considered a force and a crime multiplier, not only for criminal groups but also for guerilla and terrorist groups" (p. 755).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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