Last modified: Thursday, September 5, 2002
Organized crime expanding worldwide, IU expert says
Business is booming for organized crime on a worldwide scale, according to Kip Schlegel, associate professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Indiana University and current president of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime.
"Organized crime has experienced enormous growth in recent years because of the globalization of the marketplace," Schlegel explained. "Through frauds, scams and creation of the economic European Union, organized crime operates today much like white-collar crime. It's a by-product of the ongoing political and economic conditions of the time. Technology makes it easier to launder the movement of money, hide dollars in offshore accounts and bribe politicians," he said.
Schlegel is in the first year of a two-year presidency of IASOC, an organization of some 500 members that includes criminologists, researchers, police officers, teachers and students. The goal is to promote greater understanding and research about organized crime in all of its manifestations. This is achieved through such activities as annual meetings and publishing a quarterly journal titled Trends in Organized Crime.
Schlegel, whose research on organized crime spans more than 20 years, first became interested in the subject through criminal justice studies of narcotics traffic and how this drug business is organized. His research has expanded to examine more broadly the general organization of crime, including corporate and white-collar crime that has been publicized recently because of Enron and WorldCom.
IASOC looks at a much broader perspective of organized crime than the Mafia, he noted. "Nearly every country in the world has some form of organized crime," he said, including Japan, China and several in Europe. He added that this is partly due to political corruption, which is "just a way of doing business" in many countries.
Schlegel believes that common descriptions of the Mafia are an over-generalization. "Portraits of the Mafia as a highly structured and monolithic organization are, to a large degree, a myth perpetuated by law enforcement and the media. The influence of the Mafia is exaggerated to sell newspapers and make entertaining movies. Organized crime is both more complex and more subtle than what is portrayed in the movies and on television," he said.