Organized Crime and Street Gangs Research Paper


There has been a significant increase in criminal activities in the contemporary society and within schools. The number of people who are turning to crime to escape the pressures of their daily lives and their future, which they perceive as bleak has increased significantly. The increase in criminal activities is manifested by the increase in street gangs and organized crime. People are usually attracted to street gangs by the prestige and cash, which is usually glamorized by the street gangs. Street gangs engage in various criminal activities, which include burglary, gun and drug trafficking, and homicides. Street gangs are not simply a criminal justice problem; it is also a social problem, which is fueled by poverty, peer pressure, and despair.

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When people hear about organized crime, they usually think about gangs and mafias. However, there are various aspects of organized crime. People usually engage in organized crime by using criminality, violence, and ability to corrupt various officials to gain and maintain power and profits. Organized crime is usually global. In the recent past, it has become more difficult to tackle organized crime. In addition, the threat of organized crime has widened. Organized criminals have become smarter. Technology plays a critical part in their operations. Technology savvy organized crime groups can attack various parties in distant locations through a simple click of the mouse. They also use technology to conceal their criminal activities. Some of the organized crime groups in the contemporary world include Hispanic Crime Groups, Jamaican Poses, Russian Mafia, Asian Crime Groups and La Costa Nostra. (Wright, 2013).

Street Gangs

It is difficult to determine a concise definition of street gangs. This is because there is no general definition of a gang. Academics and practitioners provide different definitions of gangs. They both provide differences in the number of people who are necessary for the formation of gangs. For the purpose of this paper, gangs would refer to a group of at least three people who collectively engage in criminal activities. The group may have a common symbol, sign, or name. There are more than 30,000 gang members spread across the U.S. The gang members are located in inner cities, suburbs, and prisons. In the contemporary world, gangs have embraced technology. They use the internet to recruit and radicalized its members. This enables the gangs to spread their reach. Most street gangs have been in existence for more than 20 years. The gangs keep regenerating themselves as the years progress (Klein & Maxson, 2006). Each gang has a unique organizational structure.

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Organized Crime

There is no definite definition organized crime. However, the tentacles of organized crimes are usually spread over a wide geographical area and legitimate business enterprises. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines organized crime as “a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences established in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit” (Wyngaert & Dewulf, 2011, p.1025).

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Organized crime includes political corruption. Organized criminals participate in legitimate business ventures. They also have various innovations that enable them not to be detected by the criminal justice system. Most organized crime groups evolve from their beginnings as street gangs. Organized crime groups are usually formed by small gangs that were previously autonomous.

Factors that lead to the formation of organized crime and street gang

The major factor that leads to the formation of organized crime and street gangs is the existence of a power vacuum and lack or shortage of enforcement. However, this explanation raises more questions than answers.  One of the questions is how a power vacuum is created and how does it persist. It also raises the question as to why the state or federal authorities do not intervene to fill the power vacuum. From an economic standpoint, it raises the question as to why the power vacuum is not good since it would facilitate the spontaneous exchange of goods and services. Ethnic and social distance and prohibition are some of the major factors that lead to the formation of organized crime and street gangs (Wright, 2013).

Ethnic and Social Distance

Youth gangs are predominant in low-income areas that are populated by a homogenous ethnic group. These groups may include Hispanic, Irish, and African American. Most residents of the area feel that they are disenfranchised by the larger society. They view the police as indifferent to their plight. In worst case scenarios, they may even view the police as the agents of repression. This makes it difficult for the police to control ordinary crimes in these areas, which further contribute to the prevalence of crime in an organized manner. The townships in apartheid South Africa highlight this feature of street gangs and organized crime. Alienation of the townships led to the escalation of levels of insecurity and violence (Papachristos, 2014).


Legal prohibition of the production and distribution of certain goods and services is one of the major factors that lead to the development of organized crime and street gangs. Drugs are the major example of how prohibition leads to the formation of organized crime and street gangs. Government monopolies on the sale and distribution of certain goods and services also lead to the formation of organized crimes and street gangs. This is because they lead to smuggling and protection of the smuggling by organized crime groups (Klein & Maxson, 2006).

Economic Costs of Street Gangs and Organized Crime

The presence of street gangs and organized crime lead to the unproductive deployment of the economic resources. The resources could be used in other areas where they would have direct production purposes. It is a fact that street gang members of members of other organized crime groups spend their time defending each other and preparing to fight against other groups. These activities may be considered as leading to the improvement in the security of the area in an indirect way. However, the security employed by competing gangs involves expenditure. Therefore, in an area where there are competing gangs, the gangs spend more resources than if there was only one gang controlling the region. The resources spent by competing gangs are significantly higher than the resources that an efficient police or judicial system would spend to ensure the security of a certain region.

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Street gangs and organized crime has a significant impact on the economic activity in a certain area. It necessitates legal businesses to pay protection fees, which increases their operational costs. It also makes investors invest less. Investors also tend to make investments in assets that cannot be destroyed easily. It is difficult for businesses that enjoy protection from organized criminals and street gangs to use contracting through the legal channels. This is because the organized crime groups may discourage the businesses to pursue this channel as it challenges their authority. This reduces their importance to the business. As such, organized crime groups strive to enforce contracts. They are capable of enforcing contracts more effectively than the government. This is because they can impose stiff penalties to people who breach the contracts. The penalties may include physical punishment or in some instances even death. However, the uncertainties that surround the fulfillment of the contracts usually cannot outweigh the severity of the penalties. Violence, destruction of property and death are more likely to occur in areas that are controlled by organized crime groups (Cloward & Ohlin, 2013).

Organized crime has more devastating long-term impacts on a certain area. It may make the most entrepreneurial youth of the region join the organized crime groups. However, in different circumstances the people may have provided leadership that would have helped in improving the welfare of the community. Joining the organized crime groups would make it difficult for them to change later in life. The dismantling of the organized crime groups may make them turn to robbery or other crimes since they are unfamiliar with conventional lives and occupations. From the above examples, it is clear that organized crime has high economic costs. The costs may relegate a region to remain in perpetual poverty (Cloward & Ohlin, 2013).

Tackling Organized Crime and Street Gangs

Getting Hold of Reality

Prior to the discussion of the methods of tackling organized crimes and street gangs, it is vital to assess reality. This is because discussions on street gangs and organized crime are surrounded by a cloud of rhetoric and ideology that makes it difficult to understand it well. The mass media tries to use a simple approach to explain the existence of organized crime and street gangs. They claim that there are people who are inherently evil and thus become gangbangers. Therefore, according to this approach, getting rid of a few evil people would help in solving this problem. However, this approach disregards the conditions that make people join organized crime groups since their view the lives of gangbangers and mafioso as being more attractive due to their material rewards. The strategy also disregards the importance disregards the code of silence of members of organizes crime groups. It is vital for various parties to acknowledge the fact that people engage in organized crime to make a living like other people. However, organized crime does not improve the material welfare of a certain region like other economic activities. People engage in organized crime simply because there are conditions that make the behavior favorable. Institutional design may encourage people to engage in organized criminal activities (Wright, 2013).

Professionalization of the Police and State

Professionalization of the hiring and training of police and providing them with various civil protections and privileges would help in reducing extortion in the society. However, implementation of this measure may face resistance due to various factors. It would necessitate the state to hire fewer policemen who would receive a significantly higher pay. This would face resistance from policemen who would become unemployed. Corruption may also be so profitable that professional policemen may still engage in activities that facilitate the existence of organized crime groups (Klein & Maxson, 2006).

Careful Analysis of Impact of Prohibition

Prohibition is one of the major factors that lead to the development of organized crime. It creates a power vacuum that organized criminals strive to fill. Various factors make the government prohibit certain goods and services. However, it is vital for the government to weight the costs and benefits of prohibition. It should put special emphasis on the impact of prohibition on organized crime. According to policy experts, the availability and consumption of drugs is the major factor that leads to the development of organized crime. However, according to economists, it is impossible to eradicate drugs. Prohibition increases various problems, which include organized crime. However, the government may not lift the prohibition of all drugs. It should only legalize certain softer drugs. It should also use a different level of control to regulate other drugs. Netherlands provides a clear example of how the legalization of certain drugs would help in reducing organized crime. The government legalized the possession of certain quantities of cannabis. However, hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin are still prohibited. Legalization of cannabis led to the reduction in the prices of the hard drugs. Since organized crime cartels could not make money in the Dutch market, they shifted to other areas. In so doing, they reduced the problem of organized crime associated with drugs (Abadinsky, 2012).

Incorporation of the Efforts into the Mainstream

It is a fact that most organized crime groups are usually more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods that feel disenfranchised. Provision of economic opportunities in the areas would help in tackling organized crime and street gangs. Efforts should also be made to integrate the areas into the mainstream society. Population in these areas may be integrated into the mainstream through the education system and the police (Wright, 2013).

People that feel disenfranchised do not usually resist the use of force by the police provided that they perceive the police action to be legitimate. The police should not also target them specifically due to other reasons apart from security. However, in most instances the police are outsiders. Therefore, they have limited success in tackling organized crime in the areas since local residents distrust them. Having policemen who reside in the areas would significantly help in reducing the tension that exists between members of the community and the police. However, there are various political constraints in the police department that shape the behavior of the police. It is vital for the police to be accountable the political authorities, which represent the local community. This would ensure that they provide security instead of facilitating the activities of members of organized crime groups.

Education may also play a critical role in the integration of people who feel disenfranchised from the mainstream. This is due to the fact that education plays a critical role in the endowment of human capital in a certain area. The educational system also provides immigrants and low-income groups with a location where they may socialize with members of the mainstream society. This makes them feel as if they belong to a larger community. Schools provide most children with the first opportunity to interact with the government. It also provides them with an opportunity to know issues relating to business. Most regions teach in a manner that leads to the transmission of the culture of the dominant culture. This strategy has been relatively successful. However, in the recent past, it has faced various challenges. One of the major factors that have to the challenges is that this approach leads to the alienation of certain cultures. People in these cultures feel disenfranchised and dislike the education system.

Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the educational system acknowledges the multiplicity of cultures and languages. The educational policy should reflect the cultures and languages. Incorporation of bilingual studies and linking them to the universal values would help in bridging the gap between the mainstream and the minority groups (Abadinsky, 2012).

Saint Leo University strives to uphold the above values. The university strives to ensure that it provides minority groups with a good environment that would help them interact freely with other members of the society. The university strives to ensure that all students acknowledge certain universal values. In addition, the university treats all students equally. It does not discriminate minority groups or people from the mainstream society differently. This helps in their integration into the community of the university. It provides with a common sense of belonging. It is the duty of Saint Leo University to ensure the safety of its students and staff on campus. The university police ensure that gangs do not operate within the university. It also strives to prevent the radicalization of students.


Organized crime and Street gangs are prevalent in all societies. Eradicating the problem is extremely different. Tackling street gangs before they evolve to become powerful organized criminal groups is the one of the major strategies that the government may use to improve security. Since organized crime cartels are not restricted by national boundaries, it is vital for different governments to collaborate to eradicate them successfully. However, a critical analysis of the factors that lead to the development of organized crime and street gangs is the most effective strategy that would help in the eradication of the criminal groups.

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