There is a feeling that permeates throughout the law enforcement community that organized crime gangs are getting a free ride in post-9/11 America. While most of the focus of federal law enforcement is on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber crime, federal police agencies must still contend with more traditional anticrime operations including emerging organized crime gangs.
Criminal enterprises represent a near and long-term threat to our nation. The criminal activities of these enterprises are increasing in scope and magnitude as they network with each other to expand operations worldwide. The geopolitical and technological changes of the last decade have allowed these enterprises to flourish globally, and their impact on the United States is expected to increase over the next five years.
Organized crime groups from Russia and other former members of the Soviet Union are engaged in racketeering activity, and are deeply involved in large scale white collar crime. They are skilled in the use of monetary systems to funnel and conceal the proceeds of their criminal activity, employing state-of-the-art encryption to safeguard their communication networks against traditional forms of detection. Asian criminal enterprises are composed of US-born citizens and immigrants. They are multi-crime organizations that, like other ethnically-based criminal enterprises, often victimize their own ethnic immigrant communities.
These communities are typically hesitant to report victimization to authorities. As the immigration of Russian, former Soviet Union, and Asian populations into the United States increases in the next five years, so too will related ethnic organized crime. La Cosa Nostra and Italian organized crime enterprises still pose a significant threat and will continue to influence the political and economic structure of the United States through engagement in racketeering-related activity.
Alien smuggling and human trafficking will continue to pose significant threats to the national security, as transnational criminal enterprises expand their activities in this area for economic profit. In addition, the ability to facilitate the entry of illegal aliens into the United States could potentially be used to increase the membership of these criminal enterprises.
An emerging crime problem is Balkan criminal enterprises, specifically Albanian transnational organizations or clans. They are rapidly expanding their criminal activities to include loan sharking, weapons trafficking, alien smuggling, stock market manipulation, human trafficking, and drug trafficking. Additionally, these clans are forming partnerships with La Cosa Nostra crime families, as well as challenging traditional organized crime enterprises for territory.
Major theft rings account for billions of dollars in losses suffered by our nation's businesses, with corresponding price increases passed on to the US consumer. Loss prevention and asset protection are top priorities for corporate America as increasingly sophisticated and highly organized criminal enterprises engage in cargo theft, high tech theft, vehicle theft, jewelry and gem theft, organized retail theft, art and cultural antiquity theft, and other major theft activity.
Drug trafficking remains a significant problem. The impact of illegal drug abuse is estimated to be over $160 billion in US economic losses each year, including costs associated with health care, violent crime, and lost productivity. Colombian criminal enterprises are the largest source of cocaine in the world, and are also major heroin suppliers to the US market. Mexican criminal enterprises manufacture and supply much of the methamphetamine available in the United States, and transport the majority of cocaine and heroin into our nation.
The ability of Mexican enterprises to corrupt public officials in Mexico and the United States has enhanced their capability to transport and distribute these illicit drugs. Caribbean-based criminal enterprises specialize in the transportation and smuggling of drugs into Puerto Rico and the US mainland. Over the next five years, South American and Mexican drug trafficking organizations will continue to maintain their dominance, and Caribbean-based groups will provide alternate importation routes.
A rise in homicides from 1999 through 2002, and continued incidence of other violent crimes have been attributed to the resurgence of violent street gangs in major metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, which average approximately 600 homicides per year. Over the next five years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation must continue to focus the resources of Safe Streets Task Forces to combat those violent street gangs having major impact in our communities.
Sources: National Association of Chiefs of Police, US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.