This module is a resource for lecturers


The definition of an organized crime group was an initial task in the negotiation of the Organized Crime Convention. The definitions of an organized criminal group and a structured group, in article 2, set the stage.

Article 2 of the Organized Crime Convention

For the purposes of this Convention:

(a) "Organized criminal group" shall mean 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 accordance with this Convention, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit; […]

(c) "Structured group" shall mean a group that is not randomly formed for the immediate commission of an offence and that does not need to have formally defined roles for its members, continuity of its membership or a developed structure;

As illustrated in Module 1, for the purpose of the Organized Crime Convention, an organized criminal group is a "structured" group of three or more persons, which exists for a period of time. The Convention specifies that formally defined roles - or hierarchy - are not needed, nor is a continuous membership or a developed structure. On the other hand, the group cannot be randomly formed for the immediate commission of an offence.

The definition of organized criminal groups thus provides a framework for their identification and prosecution, while also implicitly recognizing that there are many different types of them and flexibility is needed in defining the term. This Module will focus on the different models of organized criminal groups that have been identified and studied thus far.

Topics covered

  • Structured group
  • Hierarchical model
  • Local/cultural model
  • Enterprise model
  • Networked model

Learning outcomes

  • Understand how individuals organize into organized criminal groups of various kinds.
  • Distinguish models of organized crime (hierarchical, cultural, enterprise, networked).
  • Evaluate the difference in focus of the models on the nature of organized crime groups versus the nature of organized crime activity.

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