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8 Crim. Just. Rev. 52 (1983)
The Organized Crime Continuum: A Further Specification of a New Conceptual Model

handle is hein.journals/crmrev8 and id is 126 raw text is: THE ORGANIZED CRIME CONTINUUM:
Graduate Program in Criminal Justice Administration
Mercyhurst College,
Erie, Pennsylvania 16548
Endless and sometimes fruitless debate continues in the literature regarding a proper definition of organized crime
as a concept. Much of this difficulty is associated with the fact that the concept has been viewed at a nominal level of
measurement and the question asked: Is this group and/or its operations an example of organized crime? A
neoteric, continuum (ordinal) model of the concept of organized crime suggests that such a question is futile and
that an analogy can be drawn with other social science concepts such as professionalism.
A continuum model of organized crime suggests that rather than viewing the concept as a matter of kind (i.e., is it or
is it not), it is far more useful to view it as a matter of degree, that is, To what extent does this group and/ or its
operations resemble organized crime? Deriving the key definitional components of organized crime as suggested by a
content analysis of selected current authors, the cosa nostra  is viewed as aprototype (ideal type) of organized crime
similar to the status of medicine in the professions, with other criminal organizations falling at various points along
the continuum. Finally a brief analysis of governmental response to organized crime suggests that use of a generic
definition broadens the the scope of federal law enforcement efforts in attacking organized crime.

What do the late mobster Frank Tieri, Larry Flynt, Hell's
Angels, and five Macon County, Georgia, detectives have in
common? They all, at either the federal or state levels, have
been charged with involvement in organized criminal activities,
even though only Tieri had any known direct syndicate ties.
These diverse examples illustrate the confusion which currently
exists in defining and analyzing organized crime.
Organized crime has been variously defined or described by
the general public, legislatures, law enforcement agencies,
social scientists, and syndicate members themselves. Analysis
of criminology literature indicates that a large number of
works, including textbooks, fail to offer a clear definition.
Organized crime has often been described and discussed but
rarely defined. Abadinsky (1981) claims that in an entire issue
of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science (1976), none of the 12 articles on organized crime
offered a definition. The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970
fails to provide a definition. The federal Task Force on
Organized Crime (National Advisory Commission, 1976, p. 1),
while offering a definition, felt that it could not frame a
comprehensive one until the scope of such activity was
analyzed more extensively on a national basis. In an analysis of
the federal law enforcement effort in the area, the General
Accounting Office (1977) noted the lack of an acceptable
definition of organized crime.
To add to the confusion far too much of what has been
written about organized crime has been restricted to an analysis
of the Italian-American Syndicate (IAS), variously referred to
as the mafia or cosa nostra. Critics of this approach (lanni,
1972, 1974; Morris & Hawkins, 1970; Smith, 1975) have
stressed that organized crime in the United States is

homegrown and is not the product of an imported, alien
conspiracy, and that no one ethnic group has a monopoly on
organized crime. These critics also allege that the picture drawn
by the Organized Crime Task Force Report (1967) as presented
by Donald Cressey (1969), based largely upon Joseph Valachi's
testimony, was overdrawn and that it is doubtful that
organized crime or the IAS, which was the most powerful of
such syndicates, ever exhibited the extreme bureaucratic,
monolithic structure depicted by the task force.
Organized Crime: A Problematic Definition
The concept organized crime shares with other social
sciences the problem of attempting to attach specific scientific
meaning to a term that has widely varying public definition.
Concepts such as culture, personality, social class, and
profession are other examples. Given this problem, an analogy
between organized crime and profession will help clarify
definitional issues. A content analysis of various definitions of
the profession concept (Hagan, 1982, Note 1) illustrated that
the majority of writers can be classified as falling into the
classic professionalism legacy, the key dimensions of which
are esoteric, useful knowledge and ethical commitment to
service which results in autonomy. Similarly, a content analysis
of selected criminologists' definitions of organized crime,
presented in Figure 1, is basically supportive of a core
criminological definition of the term. This definition, which is
basically consistent with Albini's (1971, p. 126) definition of
syndicate crime, comprehends an organization which (a) uses
force or threats of force, (b) profits from providing illicit

This article was adapted from a paper which was presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Louisville, Ky., March 1982.

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