This module is a resource for lecturers


The impact of organized crime permeates the everyday life of ordinary people like you and me. Its existence also fascinates the public. The news media, novelists and filmmakers use this fascination, often mixing fact and fiction. The result is a combination of reality, stereotypes and myths about the true nature of organized crime.

Although the reality of organized crime is complex and multifaceted, it is a fact that organized criminal groups seek illicit profits and seize opportunities to infiltrate governments and control markets of illegal goods and services including drugs, stolen property, counterfeiting, among many others. They may use violence and corruption to achieve their goals and often exploit legal persons - such as firms or corporations - to commit crimes or launder the proceeds of illegal activities. The harms produced include physical harm, economic harm, and undermining legitimate government and business operations.

Organized crime is a global problem, yet its true nature and activities are often little understood. This Module is designed to help teachers designing and delivering a session which offers greater clarity on the nature of organized crime. It offers a careful analysis of the existing conceptual landscape of the term "organized crime" with a focus on a nuanced reading of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (henceforth "Organized Crime Convention"). It also presents a typology of organized crime activity, as distinct from other forms of crime - such as terrorism and white-collar crime - that incorporates various forms of harmful conduct, including provision of illicit goods and services and infiltration of legitimate business and government. Finally, it provides a brief overview of organization and composition of organized criminal groups.

Topics covered

  • Organized crime
  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Organized criminal group
  • Serious crime
  • Crime-terror nexus
  • Ethnicity and crime
  • Gender and crime

Learning outcomes

  • Understand different approaches to defining organized crime.
  • Know the definition of an organized criminal group under the Organized Crime Convention.
  • Distinguish the similarities and differences between organized crime and other forms of crime, such as white-collar crime and terrorism.
  • Apply a typology of organized crime activity to individual organized crimes.
  • Differentiate the ways in which organized criminal groups can be assessed.
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