Organized Crime

Organized crime, a major challenge for countries around the world, is even more of a problem in postconflict environments. When wars are fueled by organized crime, there is a significant spillover effect after conflict, where former rebels are unwilling to give up lucrative criminal activity. Other criminals turn to organized crime after conflict, because the justice system is weakened, which results in near impunity.. Given its transnational component, acts of organized crime have transborder, regional, and global implications.

In 2002, recognizing the global impact of organized crime, a treaty was drafted—the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime—that sought to create a framework for addressing this crime. The convention provides a definition of “organized crime.” The act criminalized in the convention is participation in an “organized criminal gang” and taking part in its activities, knowing that participation will contribute to the achievement of a criminal aim and knowing about the aim or general criminal activity of the gang. An organized criminal gang is a structured group of three or more persons acting with the aim of committing a criminal offense to obtain a financial or material benefit.

In addition to defining “organized crime,” the convention provides a good overview of best practice approaches in addressing organized crime and draws heavily on existing, domestic approaches that may be familiar to many practitioners. These approaches include (1) the criminalization of the offense of participating in an organized criminal gang; (2) the inclusion of procedural tools that enable the investigation and prosecution of this crime; (3) the criminalization of related offenses (including money laundering); (4) and taking preventative measures to prevent organized crime. Also necessary are measures to ensure that police and others are specifically trained in organized crime investigation.

Below are links to international standards on organized crime, as well as tools, articles, and reports on best practice standards for addressing this crime. Procedural tools needed to investigate organized crime are dealt with under Investigative Tools. See Organized Crime Investigation for resources on the investigation of organized crime by the police.