Indeed, the paradigm of organized crime as "disorganized crime" (Reuter, 1983; 1985) contends that the illicit supply of services and products commonly associated with organized criminal organizations (Paoli, 2002; White, 2006) is disorganized in the way the networks operate. The traditional view of criminals as highly structured organizations has more to do with media perceptions than reality. In fact, research shows that most criminal groups are fairly loosely connected and rely on communication by telephone and mail for coordination.
Some scholars have argued that organized crime is not really distinct from other types of crime, but rather that it is merely the most successful one. This argument states that because crime pays, those who engage in it will do so even if it is not necessarily their first choice. Thus, they will work within the system to maximize their profits, which means that crime is organized.
Others say that crime cannot be organized unless it is sanctioned by a higher power, such as a government or gang. Without this approval, there is no point in setting up systems to coordinate activities across multiple locations or individuals. Criminals would just go off and do whatever they wanted to do.
Still others claim that crime can be organized without being sanctioned by anyone, including gang members themselves. These self-appointed leaders use their position to set rules for behavior and punish those who break them.
The origins of organized crime as we know it today—a collection of individuals working together to earn wealth via unlawful and often violent means—can be traced back to the 1800s street gangs. Members of the gang departed to join other gangs or form competing groups. This ongoing competition led to increased violence between these organizations and eventually law enforcement began classifying some of these groups as criminal enterprises.
Today, organized crime is still based on these original nine families. They include the Bonanno Family from New York City, the Gambino Family from New Jersey, the Genovese Family from New York City, the Lucchese Family from New York City, the Magaddino Family from Buffalo, New York; the Messina Family from Boston, Massachusetts; the Marcello Family from New Orleans, Louisiana; and the Stango Family from Chicago, Illinois.
Each family operates with a set of rules called "codes," which members are expected to follow. If a member breaks these codes, they can be expelled from the organization. Prison time may also be imposed on those who break the codes.
These prison sentences usually mean that people leave the organization when they get out of jail. However, some members may choose not to resume their previous activities once released from prison. Instead, they may start new businesses or work for existing companies.
Criminals form gangs or execute activities under the banner of organized crime. A white-collar crime is defined as "a crime done in the course of one's work by a person of respectability and high social position" (Sutherland, E., 1949, White Collar Crime). Organized crime is crime that is planned and carried out by individuals or groups who are not involved in violent crimes such as murder or robbery.
These individuals can be referred to as "white-collar criminals." They may be employed in offices, but they do not do so directly from their employers, nor are they involved in physical labor. Instead, they use their positions within these organizations to embezzle money or commit other criminal acts without being caught.
Although most white-collar criminals are employed in some sort of government office, their offenses range from petty fraud to terrorism. For example, an executive of a large corporation may steal money by misappropriating funds or may order an employee to deliver a package containing cocaine instead of mail. Either way, he has committed white-collar crime.
Some white-collar criminals abuse their authority by making false arrests or filing frivolous lawsuits for extortion or blackmail. Others sell confidential information obtained through their jobs to competitors or subvert security systems to access financial data for fraudulent purposes. Some even engage in insider trading using material nonpublic information obtained from their jobs.