Organised Crime in the New York City
New York City is the largest city in the US, both in terms of population and urban economy. Consisting of five boroughs, namely Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city has seen organised crime racketeering since the early nineteenth century. Five New York City based Mafia families operated through all the five boroughs and each of these boroughs had seen organised crimes taking place in a rampant way. With its huge and diverse economy, dominated by banking, finance and securities industries, and a multi billion dollar construction sector, it is a heaven for organised crime racketeering.
Organised crime had been an affliction on the labour movement in the city. Many union locals and district councils have been dominated or strongly influenced by organised crime for decades (Jacobs, Friel, Radick, 1999).
FBI wing which works against organised crime targets an entire organisation responsible for various criminal activities. During the 1990’s La Cosa Nostra (LCN) criminal group had infiltrated the New York City construction industry and was also involved in labour racketeering and extortion.
Cosa Nostra crime syndicate infiltrated six areas of industries in New York City namely, the Fulton fish market, JFK airport’s freight business, Construction, the Jacob Javits Convention Centre, and Waste hauling. The FBI had arrested the Chief of LCN and other active members in early 1990’s. Colombia based Montoya Sanchez drug trafficking organisation was active during the 1990’s. This highly organised drug trafficking organisation had networked via Equador to Mexico to places like Florida and New York. This drug was successfully disbanded and weakened by through international and interagency cooperation.1
Extortion is considered to be one of the major activities of the Chinese gangs. Chinese criminal gangs appear to gather strength from the inherent weaknesses in the social and economic fabric of the communities in which they operates. In the Chinese communities of American urban centres such as New York City, most street crimes, especially extortion and violent activities are committed by members of young groups, which are mainly defined as gang crime (Chin, 1996). (YACS), a Yugoslavian, Albanina, Croatian and Serbian crime group focus on highly organised and specialised thefts from the ATM machines from the New York City area. According to recent studies, Russian crime families control the gasoline terminals and distributorship in the New York metropolitan area, evading as much as $5 billion a year in state and federal taxes. Part of this money is also used to pay off their allies, the Italian mafia. As many as 2,500 Russian immigrants are believed to be involved in criminal activity, primarily in Russian enclaves in New York cities. Beyond extortion from immigrants, Russian organised crime groups have cooperated with mafia families in narcotic trafficking, fencing stolen property, money laundering and other traditional organised crime. Some of the gangs have engaged in wide ranging multi-national conspiracies, after a two year investigation in Italy, investigators found evidence that Russian organised crime operators had funnelled millions of dollars through the Bank of New York in a massive money laundering scheme. These Russian criminal gangs raised money in Italy through fraudulent means and routed these funds to Russia and New York to bank accounts of suspected organised crime operators (Seigel, 2004).
Crips and Blood are two gangs found mostly in East New York. The East New York Bloods, mostly blacks are the largest group and have several sets and about 200 members. They run one of the biggest prostitution rackets in the city. The Crips gang consists of mostly West Indians and Jamaicans are in two locations in East New York and Linden Boulevard East and are engaged in violence, crime and murder. The toughest and most ruthless gang in East New York is the crime family which has a vertical structure under the leadership of Brandy Russel and Tyrone King. They received major setback after the arrest of Tyrone King and most of its hierarchy member in 2000. There were several smaller gangs formed by immigrants from Nieta, Salvadore, consists of 100 to 150 people. However, these groups did not survive for long and have either landed in jail or are killed (Thabit, 2005).
Chinese organised crime gangs in New York City consists of gangs, secret societies, triads, tongs, Taiwanese organised crime groups, and strictly US based tongs and gangs. One of the most powerful organised crime groups in New York which is trans-nationally active is the Fu Ching. They are estimated to have approximately 35 members, with another 20 members currently in prison. Fu Ching is affiliated with Fukien American Association, who apart from providing Fu Ching a place to hang out, also allows them to operate in Fukien territory and supply money and weapons to them. . Other major gangs in New York City include the Ghost Shadows, Flying Dragons, Tung On, and Born to Kill. Violence is a defined characteristic of a Chinese criminal gang. Apart from human trafficking and smuggling of illegal migrants across trans-national border, the Fuk Ching is extensively involved in kidnapping. In the New York City’s China town, their main activities involve extortion and gambling (Finckenauer, 2001).
There is no systematic compilation of organised crime statistics in the New York. However, the overall crime reporting statistics provided by the New York Police Department gives a clear trend in different crime rates (Table 1). When crime data was compared for the years 1990 and 2005, the percentage decline in overall crime rate in the city was quite impressive (-73.63). However, for the years 2001 and 2005, the rate of decline was less significant (-17.46). Although all the crime figures showed decline for the years compared, Larceny between 2001 and 2005 had shown to have actually increased by 3.3%. The figures below clearly show that the overall crime rate in the city had gone down significantly over the years, thanks to the stringent law enforcement mechanism of New York Police Department.
Table 1 Crime Reporting in New York City: Historical Perspective
% chg 05vs 01
% chg 05 vs98
% chg 05 vs95
% chg 05 vs90
Source: New York Police Department Computer statistics unit, 2006
Until 1970s, federal law enforcing agencies in the New York City operated independently. However, with a rise in the organised crime rates, the independent criminal investigation responsibility of the FBI had been modified and in the 1980s, many joint ad hoc strike forces were formed between the FBI, the two US attorney’s offices and sometimes other federal agencies as well as the New York City Police department. Comprehensive law enforcement measures in the 1980’s and 1990’s have stripped New York’s crime syndicates of their power and influence. The steep decline of organised crime in the early 1980s can mainly be contributed to RICO act that made it a crime to belong to an organisation that performed illegal acts. Apart from the act, the New York law enforcement agencies introduced the witness protection programme. Following tightening of noose around Mafia activities by federal agencies, there was gradual weakening of organised crime in New York City. Today, although Mafia activities have not subsided altogether, its power and activities have considerably declined due to aggressive FBI investigations. After the indiscriminate arrest and prosecution of most of the members of the five Mafia families, the New York City has become the safest big city in America. Apart from controlling the organised Mafia crimes, the world class police force of NY City had cut crime figures of smaller crime groups with stringent action against the criminals.
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2003) Facts and Figures 2003, Organised Crime, retrieved from the URL: http://www.fbi.gov/libref/factsfigure/orgcrime.htm on 6th Nov, 06
Chin, K.L (1996) Chinatown Gangs: Extortion, Enterprise and Ethnicity, Oxford University Press, US.
Finckenauer, J.O (2001) Chinese Transnational Organised Crime, National Institute of Justice International, retrieved from the url:http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/international/chinese.html on 7th Nov, 06
Jacobs, J.B., Friel, C and Radicks, R (1999) Gotham Unbound: How New York was liberated from the grip of organised crime, NYU Press
Seigel, L. J (2004) Criminology: Theories, Patterns and Typologies, Thomson Wadsworth, USA
Thabit, W (2005) How East New York Became a Ghetto, NYU press
Cite this Organised Crime in the New York City
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