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Klaus von Lampe: The Concept of Organized Crime in Historical Perspective


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(1) The study of the conceptual history of organized crime in the United States has been published in greater detail elsewhere (see von Lampe 1999). The study of the conceptual history of organized crime in Germany has not yet been completed. Insofar, the findings presented in this paper are only preliminary.
Data were primarily obtained from a systematic analysis of "The New York Times Index" (1896-1995), "The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology" (1910-1995), "Der Spiegel" (1951-1995), "Kriminalistik" (1951-1995), and "Die Polizei" (1960-1995). Additional publications were systematically analyzed for shorter periods of time or only selectively analyzed, namely other periodicals ("Bulletin of the Chicago Crime Commission," "Time Magazine" etc.), books, government reports, parliamentary records (U.S. Senate, Deutscher Bundestag etc.), and unpublished documents, particularly the protocols of various German joint state-federal committees on defining organized crime.
The author would like to thank the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in Newark, New Jersey, for support through its Visiting Fellows Program. The author would also like to thank the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) for providing access to unpublished material, and Hans-Jürgen Kerner and Alfred Stümper for willingly sharing their recollections of events discussed in this paper. Finally the author is indebted to Gordon Schultze for his help in editing this paper.

(2) Articles on corruption, crime, drugs, internal security, the justice system as well as on Italy and the U.S.A. were analyzed on an issue by issue basis. The categories "Briefe," "Panorama," "Trends," "Szene," "Prisma," "Personalien," "Fernseh-Vorausschau," and "Hohlspiegel/Rückspiegel" were not included. Searches in the CD-ROM data bases that are available for recent volumes of "Der Spiegel" show a higher frequency of the term "organized crime" ("Organisierte Kriminalität," "organisiertes Verbrechen" etc.) than indicated in Table 1. This may reflect a recent tendency towards using the term "organized crime" in broader contexts beyond the narrow confines of the criminal-policy debate.

(3) See Kuschej & Pilgram (1997; 1998) for a detailed analysis of the xenophobic context of the organized-crime debate in Austria with a particular emphasis on the perpetuation of traditional concepts of the enemy in the concept of the "Russian Mafia".

(4) See Chamberlin (1919; 1920; 1921), Holden (1920), Sims (1920).

(5) The term "racketeering" apparently received its first coinage in Chicago in the mid 1920s (Allsop 1968, 24; Hostetter & Beesley 1929, 1; Smith 1975, 67; "New York Times" 20 Nov. 1927, III, p. 2) even though the term "rackets" dates back further (Albini 1971, 29-30). The term "protection racket" can be found in the "New York Times Index" as early as 1912 with reference to an article on the extortion of brothels by police officers ("New York Times" 12 Dec. 1912, p.1). Originally "racketeering" referred to a small and clearly defined section of crime: the activities of criminals in labor unions and business associations for the purpose of regulating local markets or to extort businessmen (Hanna 1927, Moley 1930). Later on, other types of crime, like bootlegging and gambling, were also subsumed to "racketeering" (see e.g. Daniell 1930, "New York Times" 3 April 1931, p. 1).

(6) Lashly (1930), "New York Times" 5 Sept. 1926, VIII, p. 5, "New York Times" 20 May 1932, p. 2.

(7) Loesch (1930).

(8) For example, whereas the pertinent articles in the "New York Times" during the 1920s had a primarily analytical orientation and only quite moderately advocated the need for action, in the 1930s all pertinent articles spoke of a "war" or "warfare" against organized crime. See e.g. "New York Times" 30 July 1933, p. 1, 20 Feb. 1934, p. 11. The only exceptions to the rule were occasional explicit or implicit references to John Landesco, the author of a report entitled "Organized Crime in Chicago". In the tradition of the Chicago School, Landesco had insisted that the gangster was "a natural product of his environment" (Landesco 1929, 1057). See e.g. "New York Times" 7 Aug. 1929, p. 15, Chamberlin (1932).

(9) U.S. Senate (1951, 2).

(10) Nelli (1976), Smith (1975). See also "New York Times" 19 Oct. 1890, p. 1.

(11) Smith (1975).

(12) Hoover (1933), Powers (1987).

(13) Cressey (1969), Task Force on Organized Crime (1967).

(14) Joe Valachi, a Mafia turn-coat who served as the primary source of information on the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra for journalists and investigators, was from New York, so was Ralph Salerno, an influential member of the Task Force on Organized Crime of President Johnson's crime commission. Puzo's "Godfather" was set in New York and De Cavalcante's base of operation was located in Northern New Jersey, close to New York City.

(15) Senate Bill 2187, 89th Congress, Senate Bill 678, 90th Congress.

(16) Atkinson (1978), Blakey & Perry (1990), Goldsmith (1988), Lynch (1987).

(17) Governor's Organized Crime Prevention Commission (1973), Hawaii Crime Commission (1978), Missouri Task Force on Organized Crime.

(18) See National Advisory Committee (1976).

(19) U.S. Comptroller General (1977).

(20) President't Commission on Organized Crime (1983).

(21) U.S. Department of Justice (1983).

(22) "New York Times" 23 Aug. 1994, p. 1.

(23) Weinberger (1951), "Die Polizei" 5/1960, p. 128, "Der Spiegel" 50/1963, p. 76, "Der Spiegel" 18/1965, p. 124-135.

(24) Beuys (1967).

(25) Mätzler (1968).

(26) Kollmar (1974).

(27) Heitmann (1962), Niggemeyer (1967).

(28) Protocol of the 64th session of the AG Kripo, 12, 13 December 1973 (unpublished).

(29) Protocols of the 1st session and 2nd session of the Fachkommission "Organisierte Kriminalität" der AG Kripo, 28, 29 January 1974 and 14, 15 March 1974 (unpublished). According to Germany's Criminal Code (see sec. 244) a "gang" requires two or more persons to join for the purpose of the continued commission of criminal acts.

(30) "Organized crime comprises criminal acts which are committed by either combinations with more than two hierachical levels or by several groups in a division of labor with the aim of obtaining profits or influence in public life". Protocol of the 2nd session of the Fachkommission "Organisierte Kriminalität" der AG Kripo, 14, 15 March 1974, p. 1 (unpublished).

(31) BKA, KI 12, Dokumentation über die Berichte und Empfehlungen der Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Leiter der Landeskriminalämter mit dem Bundeskriminalamt (AG Kripo) zu dem Generalthema "Organisierte Kriminalität," October 1976, p. 19-20 (unpublished).

(32) Similar objections were made in the debate over the revision of the BKA Act in 1973 against giving the BKA jurisdiction in all cases of internationally organized gangs (Deutscher Bundestag, Kurzprotokoll 9. Sitzung des Innenausschusses, 16 May 1973, p. 23-24).

(33) Protocol of the 72nd session of the AG Kripo, 3, 4 Dec. 1975, p. 26-27, BKA, KI 12 (op. cit.).

(34) An earlier example of the influential role of police officials on the media is the fact that the impulse for the first discussion of organized crime in Germany in the news magazine "Der Spiegel" came from a conference on organized crime that the BKA sponsored in 1974. See "Der Spiegel" 43/1974, p. 89-98.

(35) Steinke (1982), Stümper (1982), Werner (1982),"Der Spiegel" 9/1982, p. 66-69, "Der Spiegel" 13/1982, p. 38-40, "Der Spiegel" 38/1982, p. 124-129.

(36) Alfred Stümper, commission-chairman, in personal communication with the author.

(37) Organized crime "is not only to be understood in terms of a Mafia-like parallel society (...) but also as a conscious and willing, continuous cooperation in a division of labor between several persons for the purpose of committing criminal acts - frequently with the exploitation of modern infrastructure - with the aim of achieving high financial gain as quickly as possible" (ad hoc-Ausschuss 1983, 17; translation by the author).

(38) Weschke (1986), Rebscher & Vahlenkamp (1988).

(39) "Der Spiegel", 38/1982, p. 124-129, "Der Spiegel", 34/1986, p. 82-92.

(40) "Der Spiegel" 9/1988, p. 68-83.

(41) Pütter (1998).

(42) Organized crime is defined as "the planed commission of crimes for profit or power which by themselves or as a whole are of considerable relevance if more than two participants cooperate over a longer or undetermined period of time in a division of labor through the use of business or businesslike structures or through the use of violence or other means of intimidation or through the influence of politics, the media, public administration, the justice system or the economy" (von Lampe 1998, p. 38).

(43) Becker (1966, 9).

(44) For a more detailed discussion of this course of inquiry and a model combining these aspects, see von Lampe (1999).

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