Today’s criminal groups consist of loose and informal networks that often converge only when it is convenient.
Twenty years ago, recognizing that crime posed "a threat to stability and to a safe environment," member states of the United Nations agreed to create the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. "As prescient as we were back in 1991, we could never have imagined how transnational crime – particularly transnational organized crime – would evolve," said Deputy Director of the Office of Policy, Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, John Bargeron, at the 20th United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
"Today, most criminal organizations bear no resemblance to the hierarchical organized crime family groups of the 1980’s. Today’s criminal groups consist of loose and informal networks that often converge only when it is convenient. These networks are not always permanent, and individuals involved in these networks often have no idea about the larger structure and cooperation of various links in the chain," he said.
This is a far cry from criminal organizations of decades past, which were largely domestic or regional in scope, and due to their centralized nature, the arrest of a single key member was sometimes enough to dismantle them.
Unlike their predecessors, today's networks employ sophisticated technology and financial savvy. They benefit tremendously from instant global communication, and interact in an environment that knows no borders.
"We are finding that the tentacles of such networks are stretching out to embrace multiple types of criminal activity. . . . Criminal groups now go where they can make a profit," said Bargeron.
It is therefore imperative that "global priorities for criminals ... be the global priorities for this Commission - and for Member State cooperation," he said. "By gathering, exchanging and reporting information on problems and best practices, we can paint an evidence-based picture that will help us identify shared global priorities and potential tools for countering transnational crime.
"The United States will be introducing a resolution that calls greater attention to the way that transnational crime has evolved as an international threat in recent years, and promote information exchanges to give us a more complete view of the bigger picture," said Bargeron. "By doing this, we may find new paths for this Commission that we could never have imagined 20 years – or even a decade -- ago."