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Social Embeddedness of Organized Crime

NCJ Number
Transnational Organized Crime Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 1999 Pages: 19-36
Edward R. Kleemans; Henk G. Van De Bunt
Date Published
18 pages
This article examines the "social embeddedness" of organized crime in the Netherlands, using data from the continuing research project of the Research and Documentation Center (WODC) of the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands, the "WODC-monitor on Organized Crime."
Social relations are crucial for understanding the phenomenon of organized crime. This article notes that in many of the cases analyzed in the WODC study, family ties as well as the bonds of friendship formed the foundation for international criminal associations. The data further indicate that although it has been commonly assumed that ethnic homogeneity and "ethnic intimacy" are characteristic of an organized crime group, the fact is that the ethnic heterogeneity and openness of an organized crime group is far more notable than is generally assumed. The data also indicate that women play a far more important role in organized crime groups than is generally believed. Women not only have inside knowledge about illegal activities, they also perform crucial functions in shielding illegal activities from the authorities and in maintaining contacts and communication among members. Sometimes women are in charge of import and distribution channels and may even manage an entire criminal association. This study also found that the traditional view of "recruitment" into organized criminal association seriously underestimates the dynamics of criminal associations, with the "snowball effect" having a greater influence on the development of criminal associations than has been assumed. People contact criminal associations through their social relations. 33 notes