Florida International University

Professor Joseph P. Byrnes



  Organized Crime Chapter-1



Upon completing this chapter, the student should be able to:


·         Discuss the various definitions of the term organized crime.

·         Name and explain the attributes identified by law enforcement agencies and researchers as indicative of organized crime.

·         Explain the differences between terrorism and organized crime.

·         Discuss the bureaucratic/corporate structural model of organized crime.

·         Discuss the patrimonial/patron-client network structural model of organized crime.



bureaucratic/corporate model









made guy



natural system

outlaw operations



patrimonial/patron-client network

patron protection









I.                   Introduction.

A.  Burglary story.

B.  Murder story.

C.  Comparison of differing motives.


II.       Defining Organized Crime (OC).

A.  No generally accepted definition has emerged.

B.  Cressey (1969): “An organized crime is any crime committed by a person occupying, in an established division of labor, a position designed for the commission of crimes providing that such division of labor includes at least one position for a corrupter, one position for a corruptee, and one position for an enforcer.”

C.  U.S. Department of Justice (1970): “[A]ll illegal activities engaged in by members of criminal syndicates operative throughout the United States and all illegal activities engaged in by known associates and confederates of such members.”

D.  Warsaw international conference (1998): “Group activities of three or more persons, with hierarchical links or personal relationships, which permit their leaders to earn profits or control territories or markets, internal or foreign, by means of violence, intimidation or corruption, both in furtherance of criminal activity and to infiltrate the legitimate economy.”

E.  Smith (1975) and Paoli (2003) suggest an entrepreneurial conception that avoids the ethnic overtones inherent in the term “organized crime.”

F.  Maltz (1976) cited a problem of semantics, with most definitions calling a specific behavior or act OC, while the generic meaning of OC usually refers to a group of people or an entity.  “An organized crime is a crime in which there is more than one offender, and the offenders are and intend to remain associated with one another for the purpose of committing crimes.”

G.  The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (2000):  “[An] organised 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.”

H   Attributes identified as indicative of organized crime include its:

1.  lack of political goals;

2.  hierarchical structure;

3.  limited or exclusive membership;

4.  constitution as a unique subculture;

5.  self-perpetuation;

6.  willingness to use illegal violence and bribery;

7.  demonstrated specialization/division of labor;

8.  monopolism; and

9.  governance by explicit rules and regulations.


III.      Terrorism and Organized Crime.   

A.  Differentiated by means and ends.

1.  Terrorists use their funds to further political ends, overthrow governments, and impose their worldview.

2.  OC seeks to form a parallel government that coexists with the legitimate government.

B.  Motivations of criminals and terrorists may, however, overlap.


IV.  The Structure of Organized Crime.

A.  Two contrasting organizational models:

1.  The bureaucratic/corporate model.

2.  The patrimonial/patron-client network.

B.  All OC groups approximate one of these models, viewed as a continuum.


V.       The Bureaucratic/Corporate Model.

A.  A bureaucracy is the mode of organization that is essential for efficiently carrying out large-scale tasks.

B.  As rational organizations that share a number of attributes, bureaucracies:

1.  are complicated hierarchies;

2.  employ an extensive division of labor;

3.  assign positions on the basis of skill;

4.  are impersonal in the execution of responsibilities;

5.  are guided by extensive written rules and regulations; and

6.  communicate from the top of the hierarchy to persons on the bottom, usually in written (memo) form.

C.  The model of organization adopted by an entity, whether legitimate or criminal, will depend on the scope of its operations and the organizational experience of its leaders. 


VI.      Patrimonial/Patron-Client Networks.

A.  Fear of compromised communications makes many aspects of the bureaucratic model impractical for criminal organizations.  As a result:

1.  Information, orders, money, and other goods are typically transferred face-to-face.

2.  Span of control is limited because lengthy chains of command are impractical.

3.  Control is a special problem because of the inability to establish command oversight.

4.  Extensive geographic expansion usually leads to organizational collapse into feudalism.

B.  Moore (1987) suggests highly centralized control “tends to make the enterprise too dependent on the knowledge and judgment of the top management, and wastes the knowledge and initiative of subordinate managers who know more about their own capabilities and how they fit into a local environment of risks and opportunities.”

C.  Decentralized control is advantageous for both business and security reasons.

D.  Patrimonial/patron-client networks characterize most American Mafia groups.

E.  Boissevain (1974) describes networks as “the chains of persons with whom a given person is in contact.”

1.  Because contact can be through a chain of persons, an individual can establish contact with far more people than he or she knows directly.

2.  These contacts are the “friends of friends,” a phrase that in Sicily refers to mafiosi.

3.  An unbalanced social exchange relationship is a patron-client relationship.

a.  Patrons provide economic aid and protection.

b.  Clients repay with intangible assets such as esteem and loyalty.

c.  Patrons act as power brokers between clients and the wider society.

4.  While patrons need a great deal of time to manage their networks, develop and maintain contacts, provide services, enhance their power and income, and keep well informed, they typically accomplish these tasks on unstructured schedules.  (These are not 9-to-5 jobs.)

5.  Criminal activities within a patron’s geographic territory that are not under his “patronage” as referred to as “outlaw” operations.  In such cases, patrons:

a.  will not intervene to assist “outlaw” criminals who are arrested;

b.  will quash “outlaw” criminal activities that conflict with those under his patronage by arranging (through the passage of discreet information) police raids or unleashing underlings to do violence on the “outlaw” criminals; and

c.  may force independent operators to share their criminal activities (pay tribute) to receive “protection” from police raids or being victimized by violence.

6.  Professional criminals not affiliated with OC often pay financial tribute to an OC patron as concrete recognition of the patron’s power.

a.  Such recognition shows the professional’s rispetto (respect) for the patron.

b.  Respect is an important cultural element within the OC subculture.

c.  The rendering of appropriate respect enables non-OC affiliated criminals to secure vital information and assistance, and ensures that other criminals will not jeopardize their operations.

7.  Scott (1981) used the term natural system to describe the typical American Mafia Family patrimonial/patron-client network, which includes:

a.  the boss (paterfamilias) who is the patron;

b.  an underboss (sottocapo);

c.  a counselor/advisor (consigliere);

d.  captains (capiregime) who are clients of the boss/patron as well as patrons to their own underlings;

e.  other non-OC affiliated clients of the boss/patron; and

e.  Members or soldiers (soldati) who are clients of the captains.

8.  Members of natural systems:

a.  are not necessarily guided by organizational goals;

b.  share a common interest in the survival of the system; and

c.  engage in collective activities informally structured to secure system survival.

9.  As a natural system, OC is fundamentally a collection of social groups attempting to adapt and survive in a dangerous environment.

10. Mafia Family members, or “made guys,” are essentially franchisees.   As independent entrepreneurs, members:

a.  share their criminal profits with the captain/patron;

b.  are protected by the Family from other criminals; and

c.  have unlimited access to the Family’s network.


Although there is no generally accepted definition of OC, nine attributes help distinguish it from terrorists or groups of conventional criminals.  These include the facts that OC:


·         has no political goals;

·         is hierarchical;

·         has a limited or exclusive membership;

·         constitutes a unique subculture;

·         perpetuates itself;

·         exhibits a willingness to use illegal violence and bribery;

·         demonstrates specialization/division of labor;

·         is monopolistic; and

·         is governed by explicit rules and regulations.

The criminality of persons in OC differs from that of conventional criminals because the OC organization allows them to commit crimes of a different variety and on a larger scale than their less organized colleagues can. Organizational affiliation provides a form of credentialing and networking that facilitates cooperation between criminals that would not otherwise occur.


Contemporary OC can manifest two contrasting organizational models, the bureaucratic/ corporate model and the patrimonial/patron-client network. These models represent two ends of a continuum; criminal groups, if they are to be defined as organized, can be located somewhere along this continuum. The military represents the quintessential bureaucratic organization, whereas American Mafia groups fall into the patron-client network model.



·         How does the criminality of persons in OC differ from that of conventional criminals?

·         What are the nine attributes of OC?

·         How does terrorism differ from OC?

·         What are the attributes of a bureaucracy?

·         What are the characteristics of a patrimonial organization?

·         How does the patron-client model of OC differ from the bureaucratic?

·         What is the role of a patron in OC?

·         How can a member of OC act as a catalyst for a great deal of conventional criminal activity?

·         How does an organizational affiliation enhance the ability of a criminal to engage in illegal activities?

·         In the American Mafia, how does being a “made guy” provide a form of franchise?







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