Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Organised Crime and Public Sector Corruption: A Crime Scripts Analysis of Tactical Displacement Risks

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Organised Crime and Public Sector Corruption: A Crime Scripts Analysis of Tactical Displacement Risks

Article excerpt

Organised crime in Australia has received increased attention over the last decade, with the enactment of legislation and the development of other interventions that have sought to control this serious criminal phenomenon. Although the success of such interventions in reducing organised crime is yet to be subject to detailed evaluation, prior research has identified certain risks associated with policy responses that could, arguably, also lead to counterproductive consequences (Guerette & Bowers 2009; Smith, Wolanin & Worthington 2003). One consequence of enhanced legislation and/or law enforcement approaches developed to combat organised crime is so-called 'tactical crime displacement', namely that criminals may modify their tactics in order to circumvent the effects of new legislation or increased law enforcement activity, thus allowing them to continue to offend with a reduced risk of detection or criminal justice action taking place. One particular risk of tactical crime displacement is the potential for organised crime groups to focus more on forming corrupt relationships with public officials in order to obtain information that minimises the risk of detection and prosecution.

This paper illustrates how organised criminal groups can alter their patterns of offending by inducing public officials into corruptly disclosing information relevant to the facilitation of further criminal activity. This process of corruption is explained using the notion of 'crime scripts', as developed by Cornish (1994), and applied in the context of organised crime. Following an analysis of the crime scripts used by organised criminals in relation to the corruption of public servants in selected cases in Australia, various situational crime prevention solutions based on Ekblom's (2011) 5ls approach to crime prevention are explored as potential ways in which to minimise risks of this nature.

International context

The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is the primary international instrument dedicated to combating organised crime. For present purposes, organised crime will be defined in accordance with article 2 of UNTOC (UN 2004a), which is also the definition adopted by Australian law enforcement and government agencies following the Convention's ratification in 2004, namely:

* a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time, acting in concert with the aim of committing serious criminal offences in order to obtain financial or material benefit [where];

* a serious crime is defined as an offence punishable by at least four years' imprisonment; and

* a structured group is one that is not randomly formed, but has some existing internal structure and exists for some period of time before and after the commission of an offence.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) (UN 2004b) outlines the actions that amount to corruption from an international perspective. These include, but are not limited to, bribery of national public officials, abuse of functions and power, using office for personal gain and any actions that violate the interests of the public (UN 2004b).

Although organised crime and corruption are dealt with in separate UN Conventions, they are not completely independent criminal phenomena. Prior research has found a strong association between public sector corruption and organised crime groups (Buscaglia & van Dijk 2004). For example, groups involved in human trafficking and people smuggling frequently seek to corrupt border and customs officials to facilitate cross-border trafficking operations (Plolmes 2007). In addition, both theoretical and applied research has found that corruption is a key tool in the arsenal of organised crime groups (Sukharenko 2004; Vander Beken 2004).

Organised crime and corruption in Australia

Organised crime

The threat posed by organised crime in Australia is considered so great that legislation has been passed that aims to proscribe organised criminal activities and to regulate industries that could facilitate criminal behaviour (see below). …

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