What is the Cause of Organized Crime?

What is organized crime? What factors enable it? Read on to find out!
What is the Cause of Organized Crime?

Last update: 18 July, 2020

Organized crime is a way of committing crimes. These crimes require a certain level of planning and coordinated participation. There are criminal organizations such as Camorra, Cosa Nostra, and ‘Ndrangheta, which are Italian American mafias, the Japanese Yakuza, Colombian and Mexican cartels, and Russian and Eastern Europe mafias, among others.

Here are the core attributes of these criminal organizations:

  • Formed by a group of individuals.
  • They associate with each other in order to achieve certain goals.
  • Have a range of responsibilities.
  • Operate in a coordinated way and follow certain rules.
  • Act continuously.
  • Were created with the purpose of obtaining financial benefits, mainly by illegal means.
Men of organized crime.

What is the cause of organized crime?

Organized crime needs a methodology to be able to operate, actions that require large deployments, and trust among the members of the group. If one fails, the goal could be harder to reach and the members of the gang could end up in jail.

On the other hand, there are three factors that explain why someone could end up being an active member of organized crime: motivation, opportunity, and functions.

In order to start a criminal organization or get involved in one, there first must be a reason and a motivation to do it. Moreover, there must be certain required conditions and opportunities. If there isn’t a criminal organization nearby, joining one won’t be possible.

Lastly, once inside the organization, there must be benefits or functions. If there’s no reassurance or if the risk of being excluded increases, motivation decreases.

“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.”

-Joseph Pulitzer-

Macrosocial factors

There are several theories that try to explain how organized crime works. Macrosocial factors talk about the hypothesis of the fragile states and the hypothesis of a failed economy. As their names point out, these hypotheses suggest that fragile countries with failed economies would be responsible for organized crime.

However, such theories make no sense because organized crime also exists in successful and democratic countries.

Other macrofactors that help understand the origins of organized crime in a determined region are social changes. For example, migration can enable it or technological breakthroughs can lead to the creation of new drugs.

Plus, a criminal environment always generates more crime. There’s always someone who wants to take revenge on someone else and there’s always someone who sees an opportunity to benefit by abusing others.

On the other hand, geographic factors are equally important. Let’s take Mexico’s situation as an example. It’s a country surrounded by cocaine-producing countries and a potential market for it: the United States.

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”


Microsocial factors

Microsocial factors also play a role. A country can be the best place for organized crime, but in the end, it’s the group itself who must shape it. Therefore, factors such as the inability to gain status or earn profit will be important when it comes to fighting organized crime.

Similarly, groups and minorities that feel excluded can start to form criminal organizations. This is the result of a lack of control, such as laws or security bodies.

Criminal subcultures are highly relevant as well. A child who grows up in a criminal environment is likely to become a criminal as an adult. Thus, the learning of certain skills will be fundamental. All this is encouraged by social relationships with members of criminal organizations, especially if there’s shared trust.

A man with a gun looking at totem.


Lastly, personal factors also play a role. Although most members of criminal organizations are men, women also belong to them. Roles within criminal organizations are currently split between men and women.

Instead, things like having been a criminal before or sharing a common identity, either ethnic, cultural, national, or regional, with a criminal organization will better determine membership.

In conclusion, we could say that there are different ways to access organized crime, as well as different types of groups that practice organized crime.

Regardless of the way a criminal joins an organization, organized crime demands specialization or a special skill.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • De la Corte, L., & Giménez-Salinas, A. (2010). Crimen.ogr: Evolución y claves de la delincuencia organizada. Barcelona: Ariel.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.