Southern Africa Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation

Trans-National Organised Crime

Today organised crime and corruption are highly interdependent at the highest levels. Individuals at every level of the political, military and business establishments have been implicated in organised crime and the degree of social entrenchment and identity these phenomena have in communities is unprecedented. For example, legal entities are engaging in behaviours and activity that once was illegal, and only became legal through the actions of corrupt officials. Rampant corruption makes it difficult to distinguish corruption and organised crime and when an official is a tool of an organised crime groups and when they are a proactive member. As such, addressing organised crime in the future will necessitate addressing the criminalisation of governments in definitions.

violence and insecurity

Organised crime increases violence and insecurity. In the first place, while the evidence suggests that unlike in other regions, such as Central America and Latin America more generally, where drug trafficking in particular has led to direct and dramatic declines in individual security, in West and Central Africa the position is more complex. Individuals or communities have not been for the most part subjected to drug related violence. In this context, declines in security are more related to the general break down of state functions and the growth of armed groups contesting political power, rather than from criminal groups targeting each other, the state or the community as is the case for example in Mexico or Central America (although admittedly the volumes of drugs trafficked are higher). Second, there is evidence that the presence of organised crime promotes insecurity, particularly where state institutions are weak or non-existent. Key to understanding this phenomenon is that where the state is weak or compromised, a market for protection emerges. This is particularly the case for high profit but vulnerable activities such as drug smuggling. The growth of a paid protection market empowers those well position to exploit the opportunity it provides and fosters the growth of new centres of armed and/or localised power. The most pronounced case of this is in the Sahel, where the protection of trafficking routes has been a key source of income for some groups, including elements within the state security apparatus.

The illicit or criminal markets have evolved in response to global trends, and that this evolution can be broadly divided into three inter-linked categories:

  1. Historical Crime: Transnational crimes that have taken place in the region for a considerable period of time (at least since the late 1970s) and are well known though still evolving;
  2. New and evolving crimes: criminal markets which may have had longstanding roots but were not transnational in nature; and,
  3. Criminal enablers: which may overlap into each of the above categories and be organised crimes in their own right, but which serve as enablers for more general organised criminal activities.

Historical Crime: A Criminal Foundation

While the crimes in this section: drug trafficking, human trafficking, people

smuggling and the trafficking of illicit goods, are referred to as historic or old,

this speaks predominantly to their longevity in the regions, rather than to their

modus operandi. In fact, as with all organised crimes, these are quickly evolving

and innovating criminal markets, which have significantly developed., and

continue to do so. Furthermore, their longstanding have often paved the way for

new commodities or criminal acts to evolve.

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