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The paper argues that kinship ties and sharing information on violent acts can be interpreted as forms of ‘hostage-taking’ likely to increase cooperation among co-offenders. The paper tests this hypothesis among members of two criminal groups, a Camorra clan based just outside.
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Intergenerational transmission and organised crime A study of seven families in the south of the Netherlands. Department of Criminal Law. Fingerprint organized crime. Intergenerational transmission and organised crime: A study of seven families in the south of the Netherlands. Trends in organized crime , Spapens, Antonius ; Moors, H.

In: Trends in organized crime.

Stages of Crime

In: Trends in organized crime , , p. However, ethnicity cannot be completely ruled out as a trust variable, considering that the marginalization of ethnic minority groups may eliminate moral precepts while at the same time creating internal solidarity. These factors may be reinforced by social norms of keeping matters secret from outsiders and by a high cultural value placed on loyalty Bovenkerk As such, a criminal actor may come to trust another simply on the grounds that they share the same ethnic background.

In our research we have found a significant difference in the importance of ethnicity between the bootleg liquor market in Norway and the cigarette black market in Germany. Whereas in Norway, members of ethnic minorities play only a marginal role at best, in the cigarette black market in Germany certain market levels are clearly dominated by particular ethnic groups. The procurement and whole sale levels tend to be occupied by Polish smugglers and dealers whereas the street sale of contraband cigarettes in East Germany, as mentioned, has for several years been almost exclusively in the hands of Vietnamese.

An illustrative example of the relevance of ethnicity is provided by the relation of Vietnamese dealers to other members of the Vietnamese community.

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As a legacy of East German politics, the Vietnamese community had been concentrated in large housing projects isolated from the German population. Within these dormitories, whole sale and retail dealers could openly store, transport and sell untaxed cigarettes without fear of being reported to authorities by their fellow countrymen. While in the instance of a particular apartment, the other occupants might have been loyal based on family and friendship ties, a general sense of solidarity seems to have prevailed among all Vietnamese living in these dormitories.

No cooperation was sought with the German authorities despite the inconveniences connected with the frequent searches of the premises conducted by police and customs service. Evidence could also be collected on how networks of Poles living in Poland and in Germany have been used to disperse information related to the smuggling and distribution of contraband cigarettes von Lampe Here, some of the factors that characterize the relations between ethnic minority community and host society may also characterize the asymmetric relations between Poland as a country of transition and Germany as an advanced capitalist country.

This notion is supported by findings about cigarette smuggling ventures undertaken from Poland to Germany that have apparently been discussed and planned in Poland without concern for secrecy even among casual acquaintances. The most striking aspect about the dominating role of certain ethnic groups in the cigarette black market, however, is not that they foster or at least facilitate criminal relations, but that there is an apparent ease with which ethnic cleavages are being bridged by criminal actors.

Two constellations are noteworthy in this regard: the relation between Polish suppliers and Vietnamese dealers and between Vietnamese street vendors and German customers. From the available evidence it seems that Polish cigarette smugglers have initially taken the risk of directly approaching potential Vietnamese customers without prior introduction by a third party or any other preceding connection.

In the early s, Polish suppliers typically established these contacts by more or less randomly soliciting customers in front of housing projects occupied by Vietnamese. Apparently, both sides were similarly confident that members of the respective other ethnic group would be trustworthy. In a legal business context, relations across ethnic and language barriers are generally believed to be difficult to establish and maintain Neubauer There is great potential for gross misunderstanding where members of different cultures are oriented towards radically different sets of background assumptions and beliefs systems, but are unaware of these differences Good Interestingly, however, quite the opposite may be true in the case of illegal business since the respective other's status as a foreigner minimizes the possibility of his or her cooperating with the authorities.

Thus, the original relation between Polish suppliers and Vietnamese dealers may provide an example of trust based on ethnic stereotypes. In the relation between German customers and Vietnamese street vendors the same mechanism may be in place. It seems plausible to assume that there is a general belief among Germans that these Vietnamese vendors can be trusted, particularly because they are unlikely to be covert customs officers, given the marginalized status of the Vietnamese community in East Germany von Lampe Yet another trust building factor may be at work in the relation between German customers and Vietnamese vendors that should be mentioned in a comprehensive analysis, the routinization of the street sale of contraband cigarettes.

These exchanges are publicly repeated in the same fashion over and over again so that a given customer will most likely not anticipate any deviation from this norm when he or she decides to approach a vendor. In the end one can hypothesize that the cultural and ethnic cleavages that separate German customers and Vietnamese vendors of untaxed cigarettes are bridged by a combination of trust based on ethnic stereotyping and trust in the continuity of a routine situation. Business While ethnicity cannot be ruled out as a trust building factor, at least in the case of the cigarette black market in Germany, there is one social setting that appears to have a much greater significance for the emergence of criminally relevant trust, but one that is seldom explicitly mentioned in the organized crime literature: legal business.

Like the other settings discussed so far, networks of legal business relations, we assume, tend to be characterized by more or less intense cultural cohesion, patterns of repeated interaction, and transparency through social and geographical proximity.


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They are also likely to be linked by a well functioning internal communication system for the quick and easy dissemination of information. In such an environment, trust can be expected to be the result of a combination of factors like affectionate bonds, observations of personal conduct, reputation, and the reliance on shared norms and values.

Our findings suggest that this kind of trust can facilitate criminal cooperation. Both bootlegging in Norway and the trafficking in untaxed cigarettes in Germany are closely linked to legal business, namely the transportation sector. In several instances, we found that employees were gradually introduced to illegal activities taking place under the guise of legal business activities after they had initially been kept ignorant of the criminal background of their employers.

In one case a businessman invited several of his workers to go into alcohol smuggling after his legal firm went bankrupt. An example for the exploitation of legal business contacts is provided by one interviewed Norwegian alcohol smuggler who stated that he could take advantage of the reputation he had gained as a legal entrepreneur for paying his debts on time for obtaining credit in the bootlegging business. A second example stems from a case involving the distribution of several container loads of contraband cigarettes in Germany, organized by a network expanding from the Netherlands and Germany to Poland and Lithuania.

The illegal activities in this case apparently took place parallel to the cross-border trading of legal products such as salad oil. Yet another essentially legal business relation with potential relevance for illegal transactions exists in Norway between customers and retail stores, e. Trust can here be expected to stem from experience, and from the perception that the retailer has a reputation to protect. For, if the grocery store were to sell poor quality liquor, this would have repercussions not only on future illicit sales but also on the sale of legal products, and on the reputation of the store keeper within the community.

Violation of Trust It is a matter of further research to explore how the different social arenas relate to the emergence of trust relations and different levels of trust. What seems clear, however, is that no basis of trust is strong enough to rule out the possibility of betrayal see also Zaitch Accordingly, the analysis needs to focus not only on trust, but also on the conditions for, and the consequences of, the violation of trust.

No consequences Our research, as well as organized crime research in general, suggests that the violation of trust can have very different consequences; which means that the overall picture becomes even more complicated. In fact, in some instances, the violation of trust may not entail any consequences. Consider a situation in which the trusting person P remains unaware of the disloyal behaviour of O, or a situation in which P is aware of some foul play but does not attribute it to O.

One of the 'big-shots' of Norway's bootleg liquor business during the s provides an illustrative example. Members of his network continued to cooperate despite some set-backs because they failed to realize that the reason for their failures was that the 'big-shot' himself occasionally informed on accomplices in order to fend off criminal investigations directed against him.

But even in cases where disloyal behavior is recognized, the transgression does not automatically trigger any response. The reasons for not responding can be manifold, including a lack of motivation, capacity or positive incentive on the part of P for seeking retribution. But it may also be the case that P has no alternative to continued cooperation with O. In the illegal alcohol market in Norway, where informing on others seems to be the exception rather than the rule, we were able to obtain information on market participants who have been known grassers for years and yet who remained untouched.

Responses Likewise, when P does react to disloyal behaviour of O, the response does not necessarily consist of a termination of the cooperation with O, either by severing the ties to O or by eliminating O. Intermediate reactions include continued interaction with O on a lower level of risk, for example, by reducing the stakes in the cooperation. Otherwise, retribution may be aimed at ensuring a more successful cooperation with O in the future.

The level of violence is low in both the illegal alcohol market in Norway and the illegal cigarette market in Germany. In Norway, some cases of violence and threats of violence are documented in connection with debt collection and the sanctioning of police informers. In Germany, violence has played a role in the extortion of street vendors of contraband cigarettes.

Other isolated cases involved rip-offs and the mock execution of a suspected police informer. Apart from that, only one case of violence could be found where disputes between market participants might have been an issue von Lampe There may be several reasons for the relative absence of violence in these illegal markets.

First, the share of violent-prone actors is likely to be relatively small among participants in illegal markets that display some overlap with legal spheres of business and enjoy a certain level of tolerance in society. Second, black markets for highly taxed goods tend to be characterized by low density, i. Finally, the absence of structures that give rise to status conflict, such as the succession problem in mafia-like fraternal organizations, will contribute to a "non-violent" business culture.

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A Norwegian bootlegger seems to represent a common view by stating: "Make yourself a killer just because a guy turned you down on half a million? Delimitation: Precarious Bases of Trust At this point it must be stressed that trust as we conceptualize it, is a matter of subjective perceptions and expectations and therefore its presence or absence should not be judged from the angle of objective rationality.

For the analysis of criminal relations this means that a sufficient basis of trust may exist even though it would seem too weak from an objective observer's point of view. No less, it seems safe to say, is true for trusting behavior Gambetta b, As David Good has pointed out, "many superficial aspects of personal presentation can quickly lead to conclusions about the nature of another person's beliefs and sentiments.

On first seeing someone, we immediately classify that person according to age, sex, and many other social categories. From this, and the briefest of details from our interaction, we rapidly draw inferences about his or her beliefs and the relationship between us" Good Thus, trust-based cooperation may occur on a very precarious basis and without much of a past history. This may account, for example, for on-the-spot recruitments that have been documented on the whole-sale level of the cigarette black market in Germany.

In these cases, illegal entrepreneurs recruited persons for the transport of contraband cigarettes in the course of chance meetings in bars von Lampe It can be hypothesized that these encounters are sufficient for actors to form an opinion about the other's trustworthiness based on some tentative assessments. Trusting as Testing of Trustworthiness These constellations notwithstanding, there seem to be instances where cooperation occurs without a basis of trust. There are essentially four types of cases that can be distinguished.

The first one does not readily fit in the categories of trust, absence of trust and mistrust.


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It involves decisions to engage in trusting behavior with no grounds for expecting the other's trustworthiness. Still, the trusting behavior appears rational because it serves to gain sympathy and to explore the other person's disposition. The trustee is given the opportunity to adopt a 'tit-for-tat' strategy by responding in kind and thereby demonstrating that he or she will not take advantage of the trustor's vulnerability.

Actors who follow this path will typically make an initial cooperative move under circumstances where the risk is acceptably low Gambetta b: Repeated cooperation on a low or only gradually increased level of risk may then eventually lead to individualized trust Good Risking Trust Under Adverse Conditions The second type of cooperation without a real basis of trust pertains to desperate situations from which a person cannot extricate him- or herself without help Coleman ; Gambetta b: In such adverse situations, criminals may feel that they simply have no choice but "to risk the trust that cooperation demands" McCarthy et al.

Fatalism and Thrill-Seeking Finally, there are cooperative relations among criminals without a basis of trust or in the presence of outright mistrust that cannot be easily explained by any rational consideration. From the participants' perspective, it seems that the potential risks that lie in such fragile, cooperative ventures are often simply ignored, and where they are recognized they may be fatalistically accepted as an unavoidable fact of life or even welcomed in a gambler's thrill-seeking attitude Adler Several interviewed Norwegian alcohol smugglers, for example, expressed a lack of concern for the dangers emanating from the collaboration with unreliable accomplices.

In fact, it would not come as a surprise to find most criminal ventures end in a fiasco. At the same time, it should be noted that cooperative criminal ventures undertaken by disloyal and careless partners can be successful against all odds, for example, because law enforcement agencies lack the capacity to follow up on leads.

Functional Alternatives to Trust More risk-conscious actors take precautionary measures to safeguard against disloyal behavior. These functional alternatives to trust can be divided into three broad categories, measures that reduce the possibility of betrayal, measures that increase the costs of betrayal, and measures that aim at building trust.

Measures that reduce the possibility of betrayal include certain procedural arrangements like testing and counting merchandise before the transaction is made. Other common strategies in cases where actors cooperate without the security of pre-existing ties are anonymity and segmentation. In the study of the illegal cigarette market in Germany, as mentioned, a number of cases were found in which very coincidental acquaintanceships provided the basis for criminal cooperation, though mostly in connection with the assignment of subordinate tasks.

In one case, the recruits had been told they were hired to unload a truck full of vegetables. As it turned out, the vegetables only served as a disguise for a large shipment of smuggled cigarettes. Interestingly, persons that have been recruited on an ad-hoc basis prove to be willing witnesses, but the evidence they are capable of providing is typically insufficient to identify and prosecute those in charge, at least with the limited resources available to the German customs service.


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Measures that increase the cost of betrayal include, most notably, the threat and use of violence. In our conceptualization, however, this is not so much a matter of alternatives to trust than of the reliability of different bases of trust, because we assume that the expectation of the effectiveness of the threat or use of violence is similar to any other expectation that the trustee will be loyal. At the same time it should be emphasized that assuring compliance by use of force is costly and in the long run is probably no adequate alternative to trust that is rooted in less drastic considerations Gambetta b; Reuter Finally, one precautionary measure that criminals with a broader time horizon can be expected to adopt in the absence of trust, is to screen, test and school potential accomplices in an effort to establish a basis of trust for the future.

Conclusions Going back to the truism of trust as the basis of criminal relations the conclusions from our observations are as follows. First, that trust is an empirically and theoretically significant variable for understanding organized crime, but it is a multifaceted phenomenon which stands in the way of easy explanations. Second, trust provides no exhaustive explanation because criminal cooperation may also occur in the absence of trust or even between mistrusting actors.

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Third, where trust provides a binding force for criminal relations, the foundations on which that trust is based may be quite diverse. Kinship, ritual kinship and ethnicity are only some of the aspects that need to be taken into consideration. Fourth, the violation of trust does not necessarily entail a drastic response in the form of a termination of the criminal relation or the elimination of the disloyal actor. Finally, from a researcher's perspective, we find the concept of trust heuristically valuable since it raises a number of questions that deserve closer attention. We believe that these questions require the combination of different perspectives on organized crime, including psychological, anthropological, and sociological approaches, since trust appears to be a function of both individual and social variables.

For example, the expectations of a trusting person that another person shall be loyal can be influenced by factors such as the trustee's personality and previous actions, the norms and conventions that govern both persons' behaviour, and the trustor's ability and keenness to obtain and rationally process relevant information on the trustee. Of course, our discussion has been limited to only a fraction of the overall picture by focusing exclusively on the subjective view of one of two persons in a dyadic relation.

A more comprehensive approach will have to consider both sides, as well as the immediate and broader socio-structural context. Some of the key questions that remain to be answered concern the criminal exploitability of trust that has emerged in relations with no illegal connotation, the comparative strength and vulnerability of different bases of trust, the interplay of different levels of risk, hostility, adversity and trust, and the conditions under which criminal cooperation occurs despite a lack of trust, mistrust or a violation of trust, especially with regard to functional alternatives to trust.

It must be stressed that the illegal markets we are studying exist in environments that are characterized by relatively low degrees of hostility. We hypothesize that under favorable social conditions even negligent and foolish actors have a good chance to succeed in cooperative criminal ventures, whereas under hostile conditions the negligent and foolish are weeded out more quickly.

Regarding international comparative research, we believe it would be worthwhile to explore whether actors belonging to "low-trust societies" are better prepared for operating in a criminal environment than actors molded by "high-trust societies" such as those found in Germany and Norway Fukuyama The underlying notion is that people socialized in "low-trust cultures" may be naturally, better endowed to cope with the absence of trust.

On the other hand, while bonds of trust that do exist under these conditions could be particularly strong and strain resistant, the reluctance in "low-trust cultures" to place trust beyond the limits of kinship and local communities may prove a disadvantage in illegal markets where cooperation across ethnic and cultural cleavages is a necessity. New York: Columbia University Press. London: Verso. New York: Simon and Schuster. Coleman, James S. Coleman, James W. New York: St. Martin's Press. Dasgupta, Partha , Trust as a Commodity, in: D.

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Family Business: Kinship and Social Control in Organized Crime

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