Programs & Policies; the United States Fight Against Organized Crime

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The purpose of this thesis is to explore programs used by the United States Government in its attempt to rid the country of organized crime. An in-depth look into the history of La Cosa Nostra and their operations will be followed by examinations of governmental programs such as the Internal Revenue Service, Grants of Immunity, Witness Protection Program, Informants & Undercover Agents, and finally the RICO Act. Conclusions regarding the overall effectiveness of the programs will be made.


Criminal activity permeates many aspects of American society. Crime is at a very high level in the United States, from small petty crime such as shop lifting to organized bank frauds exceeding millions of dollars. According to preliminary data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the number of Crime Index offenses reported to law enforcement during the first 6 months of 2002 increased 1.3 percent when compared to figures reported for the same period of 2001. The Crime Index, which is viewed by many as an indicator of the Nation's crime experience, is comprised of violent crime offenses and property crime offenses.

One aspect of crime that has been an enduring problem for law enforcement officials since its adoption in the 1920's is organized crime. The persistence of organized criminals to survive amid a numbers of governmental programs aimed for the solely for bring down their hierarchal structures has frustrated law enforcement agencies working on their cases. Today, organized crime is a threat to the citizens of the United States and it demands full attention from law enforcement agencies.

This research will explore some of the methods used by the United States Government to combat organized crime. Methods such as the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) involvement in fighting organized crime, grants of immunity, witness protection program, the use of informants, and the RICO Act will all be explored. Conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the United States fight against organized crime will be drawn.

This research will not only help draw a clearer picture of how effective the United States fight against organized crime is, but through in-depth analysis and discussion it will help to explain why or why not these tools are effective.

Before addressing the methods that have been used by the United States to fight organized crime, it is first important to define it. It is significant to first define organized crime because there are so many different interpretations and definitions of what it is. Because of this difficulty no major theory was able to be applied to organized crime. Most Americans first thoughts about organized crime are related directly to the Italian crime families (La Cosa Nostra), better known by terms such as the mafia or the mob (Abadinsky 1983).

What makes La Cosa Nostra, or any of its members for that matter, so distinct? Why are they referred to as part of organized crime? What separates this so called organized crime family from any other group of criminals? What do they have in common with other groups of criminals? While this research will address numerous types of organized crime, it is first important to recognize the ‘organization' of La Cosa Nostra as it acts as an icon for all other organized crime groups in the United States. Organized crime groups inherit or try to adopt the Sicilian code, some with hopes of becoming a ‘made member'. It is critically important to first understand the history of the Italian mafia in order to understand it as synonymous with organized crime as a whole.

La Cosa Nostra (LCN), also known as the mafia or mob is made up of Italian-American crime "families". These families have been operating in the United States since the time of prohibition in the 1920's (Abadinsky 1981). In comparison to any other organized crime group, La Cosa Nostra possesses the greatest...
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