Transnational organized crime (TOC)

From the standpoint of organized crime, transnational organized crime (TOC) can be comprehended. Crimes committed in an organized manner, such as acts of terrorism, property devastation, or environmental harm, are those that are planned, coordinated, and carried out by people with a specific goal in mind. (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012 p. 5). As a result, criminal offenses that are organized by people across national borders in order to further a shared goal are considered transnational organized crimes. A more illustrative description of the vice (TOC), which includes both the organizational and cross-border characteristics of these criminal offenses, is given by Goehsing (2006). According to Goehsing (2006) definition, TOC constitutes a structured network of a group of more than three people existing for a period and whose members act in a concerted effort to commit a serious crime with an intention to obtain a monetary and material benefit through direct or indirect means (p. 4). However, this definition does not include terrorism whose main aim is to create mayhem, destruction, and murder as opposed to financial gain as described above.

Transnational organized crimes manifest in different forms and are very difficult to predict since they operate in very fluid networks rather than through organized formal hierarchies (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012 p. 5). Transnational criminal activities have been on the rise since the end of the Second World War besides increasing in complexity. Currently, TOCs have developed to become a global menace involving complex networks of highly connected individuals, government authorities, and highly lethal networks. The major concerns with the transnational organized crimes are the negative effects associated with them. Such include the mass destruction of property and lives, increasing global insecurity, rampant corruption and law breaking, reduced economic growths and poor health conditions of the affected nations and people, etc. (Brackin, 2014 p. 1).

What is known about the transnational organized crime?

The transnational organized crimes are distinguished from other petty localized criminal activities carried out by local criminal gangs 'pandillas.' The main differences concern the level of complexity of the two and the continuity of the criminal organizations measured in time. For instance, the TOCs operate under highly structured and sophisticated organized lines controlled by elaborate modus operandi (Goehsing 2006 p. 5). Mainly, the cross-border criminal gangs are not involved in a lot of cross-border movements and work in more harmonious ways like family units. The gangs in different countries are involved in the implementation of the crimes such as the sale of drugs or deployment of terror rather than orchestrate them. Also, Goehsing (2006) observes that the TOC gangs operate more like an international chain of business through consensuses with each side set to benefit. At some points, the gangs can operate in semi-consensual rackets of protectionists (P. 5) geared primarily to conceal the identities of the perpetrators while going about their criminal activities.

Transnational organized crimes operate in utter secrecy in order to survive and operate around and against the existing laws (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012). Due to this high level of secrecy, it is often very difficult to assess and determine their scope, modes of operations or even the diversity of the specific gangs. A lot of documentations regarding the operations of criminal gangs is based majorly on estimates of facts since the gangs tend to keep the top secrecy of their affairs. One dire fact that has been established is the coordination effect with the international authorities to commit criminal offenses. These coordinative effects are exhibited in fragile states and failing or failed states which have weaker monitoring systems from criminal offenses (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012 p. 6). The coordinative effects have made it critically had for the international communities to fight crimes perpetrated across the national borders due to the immunity accorded to every country from invasion by foreign nations.

The TOC networks are well developed both at the local levels and across the borders to ease flow and communication within the gang members just like in any other normal communication systems. With the advent of various communication channels such as the internet and mobile phones, communication between these criminals is made easier. As Williams highlights, the organized crime networks can be best understood from the perspectives of networks both locally and internationally. The networks differ significantly from place to place and from one gang to another (Williams, 2001, p. 65). Moreover, the networks may be involved in one or many activities at the same time making it very difficult to associate a single one with a predictable outcome.

The use of failed or weaker states as transit points to commit the transnational crimes is an established fact in many studies. For instance, in failed states, the available policing and law supervision networks by the governments is crumbled or is so weak to offer effective monitoring systems. Moreover, corruption in most of the failed states of failing states makes it very easy for crime to go unnoticed or criminals to walk away easily. Effective administration of the laws and justice in any region is the beginning of the fight against the local and international networks of transnational criminal networks. According to Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe (2012), the presence of the local networks in fragile states may have nothing to do with the local markets as long as they secure a safe passage for their goods to the destination markets (p. 7).

The ability to adopt several faces of criminal offenses acts as a disguise to the main business such as drugs trafficking, human trafficking, or terrorism. In these failed states, the ranks ascend to include the prominent and powerful government officials, security personnel and prominent business persons who are used to create safety and concealment to the deals being undertaken in very transit state. For these reasons, the criminal gangs to operate effectively, their survivals depend largely on the corporation of the senior officials at the passage states (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012, p. 8).

Transnational organized crime and international relations

Traditionally, the essence of transnational organized crimes is a menace in each of the affected states all over the globe. Despite having a global presence, these criminal offenses have never been a problem in influencing serious international relations (Zabyelina 2009, p. 15). The recent frictions in international relations between Mexico and President Donald Trump's administration is a recent case in point is whereby the TOC played out in the US politics for the first time. It is not unique that the criminal offenders in Mexico have often used the US as a transit point to the rest of the world and central Mexico market (Miraglia, Ochoa & Briscoe, 2012, p. 7). However, this has never resulted to qualms between the governments of the United States and Mexico until the advent of Trump's administration.

A study by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) reported in Zablyelina (2009) reported owing to the recent advancements in technology and communication networks, the majority of the transnational organized criminal networks are dissolving into smaller and less complex hierarchical networks (p. 16). These breakdowns make the criminal institutions quite smaller and take different shapes and orientations making it very difficult to trace then and their influence at the local and international levels. Due to these dissolutions, it is very difficult to trace the small criminal networks at the local levels to the government structures and thus, their influence on international relational structures.

Zabyelina (2009) describes the TOC criminal networks using the models such as the constructivist's models and the liberal institutionalism. The liberal institutionalism, for instance, defines a crime as what the state identifies as a crime rather than what the international communities perceive as criminal offenses. This means that for a criminal offense to be regarded as a crime by another state, it must be recorded in the constitutions of the accused states as criminal offenses and which are punishable with penalties (Zabyelina 2009. P. 12). Different countries have different laws which define what actions are regarded as criminal offenses. Coupled with the immunity of the states, each state is free to determine their independent description of the crime. Given the fact that liberal states and the international community as well, respects the human rights, human activities and behaviors are regarded as crimes only when they affect human rights. The respect and immunity of every state and the independence of the local or internationally regulated TOCs from the states' apparatus makes it hard to associate any country with the TOCs.

On the other hand, the constructivist's model lays emphasis mainly on the individual zones of prominence referred to as the zones of ambiguity (Zabyelina 2009, p. 13). This model suggests that criminal activities are often interpreted as states-embedded rather than independent entities dissociated from the states in which the local and international networks seems to converge. However, like the liberalism approach above, the constructivist's approach also lays criminal focus on the individual members of the societies as opposed to the whole country. In this way, therefore, the constructivists'' model also support the concept of immunity of the respective states from association with criminal offenses, including the transnational organized crimes (Pankratz & Matiasek, 2012, p. 22). Consequently, popular models used to explain the organization and distribution of the transnational organized crimes tends to dissociate the states from the crimes networks. Due to these reasons, the models and theories suggest no relationship between transnational organized crimes and the international relations between different countries of the world. Although criminal offenses such as money laundering, drug trafficking, etc. fit within the international laws as criminal offenses, the models described herein tend to focus primarily on the individual persons and gangs rather than the respective states in which they operate.

The complexity of organized crimes

As the name suggests, 'organized criminal activities/ organized crimes' have a high level of criminal organization which also operates in top secrecy. The diversity of these criminal gangs is as wide as the regions in which they operate. Owing to that the majority of the organized criminal activities transcend the international and national borders, their complexity surpasses the local networks alone and can be understood only from a wide array of perspectives. Further, the complexity of organized criminal activities is aggravated by the fact that cultural and social factors which seems to affect the activities and manifestation of the criminal vary significantly from one region to another (Owen & Grigsby, 2012, p. 24). These differences make it hard to understand the true nature and operational characteristics of these gangs.

Moreover, the structural organizations of the 'organized crimes' is another feature which increases their complexity both at the local levels as well as at the international realms. Organized criminal gangs operate in deep loyalty and secrecy through the ranks from the junior gang to the ones at the topmost ranks. At different ranks, the individual gangs are concerned with various kinds of activities such as drugs trafficking, smuggling of firearms, human trafficking, etc. As a result, the majority of the gangs classified as an organized crime group that is involved in a single criminal offense. As a result, discerning the true face of the organized criminal gangs is a rather complex if not impossible event to deconstruct (Pankratz & Matiasek, 2012, p. 25).

The nature and causes of transnational organized crimes

The transnational crime gangs have been in place in different parts of the society for a long time now. With the society modernizing in different perspectives, the transnational crime syndicates have also changed significantly to reflect the changing faces of the present world. Part of the changes includes the communication and organization networks, funding structures and operational activities, etc. Given the nature of their activities presently, the true causes and nature of these criminal gangs have remained a mystery to the global scenes. However, the emergence and existence of the gangs can be analyzed from the perspectives of their criminal objectives. According to Wesley (2007), the overriding benefit associated with the perpetration of criminal activities is financial gains. Organized criminal activities such as drugs trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling of firearms and other related activities geared towards financial gains. As a result, Wesley (2007) main claim is financial gain first then the other factors follow (P. 2).

Regarding these aspects, Wesley (2007) observes that the current society is structured in a capitalistic manner and run on the basis of the capitalists' ideologies (P. 4). Largely in the capitalist societies, people and the governments tend to focus largely on money and generation of wealth through various means. Passas (2009) blames this perspective to the use of development, survival, and proliferation of the transnational organized crime syndicates (P. 12). These conditions have been aggravated by the tussle between the desire to grow liberal economies or the economies which are governed by strict legal structures and systems. Concerning these approaches, the arguments of the proponents of market economies as a stimulant for the growth of the global economies have often carried the day in the current capitalistic economies. The proponents of these ideologies argue that the economies must grow ahead of the laws. The adoption of this side of the argument in the majority of the capitalistic societies around the world has lessened regulations on business activities leading to the growth and proliferation of various criminal gangs and criminal activities in different parts of the world (Passas, 2003, p. 19).

The responses to TOCs

The global responses to the menace caused by the transnational organized criminal organizations vary significantly from one nation to another depending on how the gangs are perceived under the laws and the governments in place. While the rise in TOCs has been immense in the recent past, the response to their rise is critically poor and uncoordinated. Researches into this affair have highlighted that for the TOCs to be combated effectively; the issue needs to be approached from an international perspective through a coordinated approach between the affected countries (The United States Coast Guard, 2014, p. 16). However, this approach has also not been easily achieved or successful given the differences in structures of governance and constitutional laws in different countries. Also, poor coordination between different government structures has equally hindered the fight against transnational organized criminal activities. According to Shelley (1995), criminal gangs tends to thrive well in areas with weak governance structures, failed and weakened states and the states with weaker legal structures. To strengthen the fight against transnational organized crimes, states have embarked on developing laws and policies governing the business and security systems within their respective countries and across the national borders. Joint policing and the administration of the international laws has been at the centre of the response strategies (p. 472).

Countering the expansion of transnational criminal networks

Various attempts to counter the expansion of transactional criminal networks have been frustrated by no tangible results being achieved despite tremendous efforts being employed within. In order to combat the expansion of criminal gangs and criminal activities, it is important to understand the conditions under which these gangs operate and the objectives to be achieved. This depends on an understanding of the effects of the criminal networks and activities in the affected societies. Studies have suggested the dismantling of the factors which favours the growth and development of the criminal gangs such as corruption, and reducing the income inequalities in the society (Goehsing, 2006, p. 8-10); Rabasa et al. (2017, p. 12-13); Brackin (2014, p. 25-29). Theoretical models to the understanding of criminal activities and curbing their proliferation have focused largely on doing away with the causative factors as opposed to attacking the criminals directly. This method is applauded for its effectiveness of involving the grassroots where the crimes are perpetrated as opposed to locking the networks themselves. Previous attempts have failed for lack of proper and focused strategies to abate these problems.

Rabasa et al. (2017) for instance described the approach of armed confrontations with the criminal gangs in Mexico in an attempt to curb their existence and proliferation (p. 12). These attempts have however been met with great disappointments. The criminal groups have been found to work in coordination with one another to offer protection and concealment in the event of any undercover or mounted operations by the governments to combat their territories. A case in point is illustrated by Rabasa et al (2017) about the two Mexican cartels (the Sinaloa and the Gulf cartels) which have a combined military potential equivalent to that of the government of Mexico. Together, the two cartels are capable of fielding up to 100,000 soldiers in their defense, a number that almost matches that of the Mexican government soldiers of 130,000 armed personnel (Rabasa et al. 2017, p. 13). Due to these reasons, the armed confrontational attempts to combat the rise and proliferation of the TOCs cartels in Mexico, as well as in other regions of the world have registered great disappointments. Moreover, the United States Coast Guard (2014, p. 23) observes that these criminal groups tend to regroup very easily and faster upon dismantling by through military combats.

Brackin (2014) also acknowledges the failure of armed combats between the governments and the criminal gangs as an ineffective and inefficient approach to handling the current face of TOCs. On the contrary, Brackin (2014) seems to support entirely the coordinated efforts between the international community to combat and dismantle the proliferation of the criminal network. The transnational organized criminal gangs transcend the international borders from where they operate their hideous businesses. Upon the realization of the need to develop a concerted effort to counter the networks, the global communities have embarked on a joint effort to develop policies and approaches which enable criminal repatriation for trial in their respective countries as well as by other foreign powers. This approach seems to be more effective. These efforts, however, needs to be complemented by the local efforts to improve the economic conditions of the transit states and strengthen the law administration efforts to curb the creation and proliferation of the networks (Goehsing, 2006, p. 8). These efforts have concentrated majorly on strengthening laws and policies which enhance corruption and poor governance besides putting in place proper economic stimulus structures in place to initiate the fights through the bottom-up approaches (Goehsing, 2006, p. 10).

Destabilizing the effects of the networks

Destabilization of the transnational criminal networks requires a clear understanding of the operations and interconnectedness of the networks. Again, efforts to achieve these effects have been geared primarily on destabilizing the supply chains through a coordinated approach. For instance, the international community has been developing approaches focusing on four main aspects: establishing friendlier and coordinated information sharing platforms, empowering the local authorities to exchange information on crime networks and crime syndicates, forming crime-fighting partnerships and exploiting the available opportunities through intelligence gathering and dissemination (Brackin 2014, p. 28).


Transnational organized criminal gangs have proliferated significantly in the recent past and remain an international menace to the local communities and the international society. Some of the issues which help to enhance the emergence and development of these criminal gangs are diverse including the rise in the number of failed or failing states, the rise of the international capitalism and weakening of the local networks on policing. This study has examined the conditions of the TOCs and hos they operate at the local and international levels with an aim to develop an elaborate understanding about the whole issue. Owing to the rising menace of these criminal gangs, it is important that the attempts to curb their existence be geared in favour of a coordinated and multi-thronged approach between various countries within the epicenter of these networks. Also, the crimes associated with the TOCs can be won effectively through the policies development both at the local and at the international levels.


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