Organized crime is prevalent in many parts of the world, including the USA. The crime differs from other types of crime in that it involves a large organization of people who actively adhere to a hierarchy, and a code of loyalty and secrecy (Thio, 2010). The activities they engage in are generally deviant methods to obtain wealth; many of which are blatantly disruptive to society. In the end, however, organized criminals are just human. They have human wants and needs. To understand how to combat organized crime, one must understand the sociological factors that foster turning humans toward deviance.
Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla is a man currently on trial for one of Chicago’s largest drug cases. He is accused of being the highest ranking member of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug division (Sweeney, 2012). The cartel has been accused of a variety of crimes including drug trafficking, corrupting officials, and kidnapping (Associated Press, 2009). A united effort by both the U.S. and Mexico to put an end to the drug trafficking, and related violence, resulted in various drug cartel’s, including the Sinaloa cartel’s, retaliation of killing approximately 800 police and soldiers, along with another 7200 people who may or may not have been associated with drug trafficking (Associated Press, 2009). The Sinaloa cartel, it seems, is a danger to society.
To understand how and why the Sinaloa cartel began and thrives, it is necessary to understand parts of their history. The Sinaloa cartel gets its name, Sinaloa, from the Mexican state of its origins; Sinaloa (Bradshaw, Chacko, Dymond, & White, 2011). Like most of Mexico, Sinaloa’s ethnicity is overwhelmingly (at least 60%) a mixture of indigenous Native Americans and of European descent (Bradshaw, Chacko, Dymond, & White, 2011). The land of Sinaloa is amazingly fertile and up to 75% of its land is devoted to agriculture (Bergman, n.d.). It is not surprising then, that when the Chinese introduced opium in the 19th century that it flourished (Bergman, n.d.).
When the USA became involved in World War II, the USA found that it needed a new source of opium since Japan gained control of Asian sources. The USA then turned to Sinaloa for opium sources which dramatically increased opium production, and possibly, Sinaloa reliance on the US economy (Bergman, n.d.). After the war, however, the USA no longer needed Sinaloa opium. The farmers, however, continued to produce it (Bergman, n.d.). It is likely at this point that Sinaloa turned to illegal methods to sell its crop in the form of heroine. The Sinaloa opium farmers turned to deviance.
From a socialistic perspective, it is easy to see how the Sinaloa cartel might have developed. Though Sinaloa was very fertile, most of Sinaloa’s peasants were poor. Opium and USA reliance on that opium during World War II gave the peasants hopes and ambitions of a better standard of living. When their hopes to achieve their ambitions in a legal fashion were destroyed they turned to illegal means to achieve their goals. This outcome is predicted by the Anomie-Strain theory; people in a society where ambition is much higher than what they can achieve turn to deviant methods to achieve their goals (Thio, 2010). From here their deviant behavior became more deviant through a process of differential identification and reinforcement; this is to say that exposure to deviant activities, and learning the rewards of those activities, introduced them to even more deviant methods (Thio, 2010).
Thwarted ambitions and differential identification alone cannot explain the rise of organized crime. To thrive, organized crime also needs the help of law enforcement, judges, and politicians (Kass, 2012). This could help explain why Al Capone and the Italian Mafia were so successful early on because Chicago, where they first got their start, has been shown to be the most corrupt area in the United States (Dardick, 2012). Since 1976 there have been 1531 corruption convictions in the area (Dardick, 2012). This corruption, combined with the opportunity that Prohibition provided in the 1920’s, made the Italian mafia the dominant crime organization in the USA for a time span of a few decades just short of a century (Thio, 2010). Of course, Anomie-Strain influences can also be found in the Italian Mafia as Al Capone himself was the son of Italian immigrant parents (FBI, n.d.). As the son of Immigrants, Capone may not have felt he could achieve his ambitions legally, and therefore, resorted to crime.
The Italian mafia and the Sinaloa cartel both have a few commonalities that lead to the formation of their respective organizations. First there was opportunity. The American public, in both cases craved illegal substances that they could provide. Secondly there was the ambition to achieve. In the case of Sinaloa, the poor farmers briefly tasted achievement before the USA no longer needed their opium. Thirdly both members of the Italian mafia, and of the Sinaloa cartel, likely had no legal means to achieve. Finally, having given in to illegal methods to obtain their goals they, through a process of differential identification and reinforcement, learned, and became comfortable with, even more deviant methods to achieve. All of these things indicate that relative inequality causes turmoil within a society. To combat organized crime then, beyond punitive measures, involves providing legal opportunities for success as well as providing education to find those opportunities so that individuals do not need to turn to deviance to achieve their goals.
Associated Press. (2009, March 19). Mexico Captures High-Level Cartel member. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29773111/ns/world_news-americas/#.T5IcvtUcs4d
Bergman, J. (n.d.). The Place Mexico's Drug Kingpins Call Home. Retrieved from Frontline: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/business/place.html
Bradshaw, M., Chacko, E., Dymond, J. P., & White, G. W. (2011). Essentials of World Regional Geography. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Dardick, H. (2012, Fabruary 15). Chicago Area Has Most Corruption Convictions in Nation, UIC Study Says. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-chicago-area-has-most-corruption-convictions-in-nation-uic-study-says-20120215,0,1024358.story
FBI. (n.d.). Famous Cases & Criminals. Retrieved from FBI.gov: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/al-capone
Kass, J. (2012, February 22). Vegas Mob Museum Puts Best Face on Connections to Chicago, Politicians. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0222-20120222,0,1924595.column
Sweeney, A. (2012, January 25). Trial Delayed for Man Accused of Running Drug Cartel. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-trial-delayed-for-man-accused-of-running-drug-cartel-20120125,0,2934254.story
Thio, A. (2010). Deviant Behavior (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearsons: Allyn & Bacon.