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Abstract

Criminal organizations inhabit dynamic environments where the pressures of competition and state opposition constantly challenge their existence. To survive and prosper, they must be resilient. Little has been written about the concept of resilience in the context of illicit organizations. This article explores possible sources of resilience for criminal organizations, focusing on institutionalised gangs. Drawing on ecological and organizational literature, resilience is defined as the capacity to absorb and withstand disruption and to adapt to change when necessary. For gangs and other criminal organizations, sources of resilience may include environmental factors and individual organizational features such as network characteristics. Resilience is not just a concept that enables criminologists to better understand the longevity of some criminal organizations; it also has implications for the strategic and operational aspects of policing such organizations, including intelligence gathering, the design of interventions and assess-ment of their potential unintended consequences.
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Criminal organizations and resilience
Julie Ayling*
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Regulatory Institutions Network Building 8,
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
Abstract
Criminal organizations inhabit dynamic environments where the pressures of competition and state
opposition constantly challenge their existence. To survive and prosper, they must be resilient. Little has
been written about the concept of resilience in the context of illicit organizations. This article explores
possible sources of resilience for criminal organizations, focusing on institutionalised gangs. Drawing on
ecological and organizational literature, resilience is defined as the capacity to absorb and withstand
disruption and to adapt to change when necessary. For gangs and other criminal organizations, sources of
resilience may include environmental factors and individual organizational features such as network
characteristics. Resilience is not just a concept that enables criminologists to better understand the
longevity of some criminal organizations; it also has implications for the strategic and operational aspects
of policing such organizations, including intelligence gathering, the design of interventions and assess-
ment of their potential unintended consequences.
Ó2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Criminal organizations inhabit dynamic environments where the pressures of competition
and state opposition constantly challenge their very existence. To survive and prosper, they
must be sufficiently resilient to adapt to changing conditions arising from new competition,
alterations in laws, policies and law enforcement practices, expansion or contraction of illegal
markets and the availability of new technologies. Change may also result from internal
conflicts: the organization may splinter, merge with other groups or reorganize (Weisel, 2002a).
* Tel.: þ61 2 6125 6035; fax: þ61 2 6125 1507.
E-mail address: julie.ayling@anu.edu.au
1756-0616/$ - see front matter Ó2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ijlcj.2009.10.003
A
vailable online at www.sciencedirect.com
International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice
37 (2009) 182e196
www.elsevier.com/locate/ijlcj
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While the study of criminal organizations has not entirely overlooked resilience (see, for
example, Williams, 2001; Kenney, 2006, 2007; Jackson, 2006; Bouchard, 2007), little attention
has been paid to how resilience in criminal organizations develops. What is it about criminal
organizations that have survived and flourished amid constant threat and frequent confrontation
that has given them the resilience to do so?
The nature and sources of resilience have been much discussed in some non-criminal justice
domains. In this article, we use ecological, organizational as well as criminological literature to
draw out sources of resilience that may be shared by different types of illicit organizations,
using gangs as the focus. Non-criminological orthodoxies are used judiciously to inform
discussion, and the unique features of criminal organizations are taken into account.
Sections 2 and 3 of the article explore the concept of resilience in ecological and organi-
zational studies. Based on that literature, in section 4 a concept of resilience is adopted for the
purpose of the article that includes both the capacity to withstand disruption and adaptive
capacity when circumstances change. In section 5, we consider whether the characteristics of
licit resilient organizations identified in section 3 are applicable as a whole to criminal orga-
nizations, and conclude that the latter’s illegal status significantly affects their resilience
capacity.
The focus then turns to gangs. Section 6explores the appropriateness of using gangs to
illustrate the resilience of criminal organizations. Then in sections 7 and 8, possible sources of
that resilience are examined, drawing on examples from various jurisdictions. The article
concludes with some general thoughts on how a resilience perspective is not only a useful
construct for academics but also could improve strategic and operational law enforcement
approaches to gangs and other criminal organizations.
Some terminology used in this article should be clarified. We draw upon literature relating to
both or either of ‘‘organizations’’ and ‘‘networks’’. While all organizations are networks in the
broadest sense of that term,
1
networks are also commonly regarded as particular forms of
criminal organizing where linkages among actors (whether individuals or organizations) are
predominantly lateral or horizontal, in contrast to the mainly vertical configuration of hierar-
chies. Characteristics arising from this horizontal configuration enetwork characteristics e
bestow certain advantages on organizations that are relevant to their resilience, and these are
identified in the second half of the article.
2. The concept of resilience in ecology
The word ‘resilience’ is derived from the Latin resilio (resilı´re), meaning ‘‘to jump back’
(Templeman and Bergin, 2008). It was first used in physics and mathematics to describe the
ability of certain materials to resume their shape after displacement (Norris et al., 2008). Due to
climate change, the resilience and sustainability of socio-ecological systems has become a ‘hot’
topic, but the ecological concept of resilience was actually introduced by C.S. Holling (1961)
over forty years ago.
2
Resilience relates to the stability of systems: their ability to absorb
disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to retain the same function, struc-
ture, identity and feedbacks (Walker et al., 2004: 6). A condensed version of ecological
resilience thinking follows, sufficient for current purposes.
1
Nohria (1992: 4) defines a network as ‘‘a set of nodes (e.g. persons, organizations) linked by a set of social rela-
tionships (e.g. friendship, transfer of funds, overlapping membership) of a specified type’’.
2
For an overview of the emergence of the resilience perspective, see Folke, 2006.
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Within the concept of resilience are two different but related meanings (Gunderson, 2000).
The first is ‘‘engineering resilience’’, which assumes that a single or global equilibrium, or
steady state, exists to which a disturbed system will return, measured as the time this process
takes. More commonly prevailing, and used in this article, is a second meaning that allows for
evolution in systems and an element of unpredictability in their behaviour. ‘‘Ecological resil-
ience’’ recognises that systems can exist in multiple steady states. A system subjected to
sufficient disturbance can move from one state to another. Resilience is measured in terms of
the amount of disturbance the system can absorb before it self-organizes and adopts a new state.
These multiple steady states are better known as ‘stability domains’. In the relevant literature
they have been represented diagrammatically as basins. A socio-ecological system is repre-
sented by a ball that, at its most stable, sits at the bottom of the basin. Stability domains may
vary in shape (depth, width) and thus pose more or less of a challenge to stability. A ball
(system) that, due to disturbance, moves to the rim of one basin (stability domain) may as easily
slide into the next as return to its starting point. These rims are known as ‘unstable equilibria’,
‘thresholds’ or ‘tipping points’. Resilience is how far you can push the system before it tips into
an adjoining stability domain.
Stability domains can change shape. Resilience may be lost if a stability domain shrinks,
because the system has less room to move before it meets an instability threshold. A loss of
redundancy in a system can also cause a loss of resilience. Biodiversity provides functional
redundancy. If one species or subsystem loses resilience, redundancy allows another to keep the
system operating as before (Walker, 2008).
The ecological resilience perspective has been adopted in wide-ranging fields including
anthropology, environmental psychology, cultural theory, economics, management, and orga-
nizational sociology (Folke, 2006: 255). It has particular resonance where social systems and
the natural environment interrelate, such as in disaster preparedness and environmental
management. Because this article focuses on criminal organizations, we turn now to resilience
as applied to organizations.
3. Organizational resilience
Resilience has attracted attention in organizational literature and business circles recently
due to a growing acknowledgement of the vulnerability of business to threats such as terrorism,
natural disasters, cybercrime, accident and employee/management error, neglect or reckless-
ness. Organizational resilience literature assumes that crises (system disturbances) will happen
in the natural history of an organization. It focuses on organizational preparedness in terms of
strategies, operations and governance structures. Like ecological resilience, organizational
resilience generally is taken to go beyond the capacity to withstand disruption to include
adaptive capacity: the ability to ‘‘turn challenges into opportunities’’ (Lengnick-Hall and Beck,
2003; see also Seville, 2006). Highly competitive and rapidly changing environments such as
today’s global markets are especially likely to trigger the need for more than minor adaptation.
The ‘‘robust transformation’’ of organizations (Lengnick-Hall and Beck, 2005) is a response to
an environmental jolt (in ecological thought, the stimulus for transition between stability
domains), such as major technological innovation or political shifts (e.g. deregulation).
Organizations that experience such a jolt and find themselves at the ‘‘edge of chaos’’
3
must
3
Complexity theory uses this poetic term to describe the state of turbulence between rigid order and complete chaos
where change through self-organization is likely.
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make fundamental changes to their objectives and operations in order to survive (Dervitsiotis,
2003). ‘‘Resilience capacity’’ (Lengnick-Hall and Beck, 2003, 2005) enables an organization to
develop the necessary routines to make these changes.
Amidst rhetoric about organizational ‘flexibility’ and ‘responsiveness’, more specific
prescriptions for resilience have been offered. Characteristics of resilient organizations are said
to include:
A ‘‘capabilities-based approach’’ (Oldfield, 2008) (in contrast to a threat identification/risk
management approach);
Strategic/scenario planning (Dervitsiotis, 2003; Seville, 2006);
Good communication within the organization (Horne, 1997; Horne and Orr, 1998; Oldfield,
2008; Seville, 2006);
Good communication with key stakeholders (Seville, 2006);
A shared vision/sense of purpose/set of values (Coutu, 2002; Horne, 1997; Seville, 2006);
Simple (or ‘‘minimal’’) structures ‘‘that regulate without constraining’’ and afford
distributed power (Cunha and Cunha, 2006);
Inbuilt redundancy, that is, excess capacity (in inventory, production or distribution
processes, IT systems or staffing) (Sheffi, 2005);
Capacity to improvise using available rather than optimal resources (bricolage) (Coutu,
2002; Cunha and Cunha, 2006);
Inspirational, enthusiastic and intellectually stimulating leaders (Harland et al., 2005;
Oldfield, 2008);
Capacity for effective organizational learning (Zollo and Winter, 2002).
A caveat is required, however. Organizations are not monolithic systems. An organization’s
resilience will inevitably be influenced by its constituency (Harland et al., 2005; Riolli and
Savicki, 2003). It is probably not guaranteed by members’ individual resiliency (Horne and Orr,
1998; Riolli and Savicki, 2003), because a complex system is more than the sum of its parts.
4. Defining resilience
Drawing on literatures on ecological and organizational resilience, we adopt a concept of
resilience that conflates two ideas: the capacity to absorb and thus withstand disruption
4
and the
capacity to adapt, when necessary, to changes arising from that disruption. Adaptation can
range from minor evolutionary adjustments through to robust transformations akin to the
movement of an ecological system into a new stability domain.
5. Illegality and resilience
Most scholarship about organizational resilience pertains only to legitimate business. Can
we take the characteristics of resilient organizations listed earlier and simply apply them to
criminal organizations?
Differences between licit and illicit organizations have implications for their resilience
characteristics. Some of their sources of vulnerability differ. Both types of organization are
vulnerable to competition. Both are also under pressure to service the market efficiently, to
4
Bouchard, 2007 refers to this aspect of resilience as ‘elasticity’.
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satisfy demand and to ‘stay ahead of the game’ through new product provision and techno-
logical improvements. However, the illegality of the products of a criminal organization, such
as drugs or extortion, places certain constraints on how it can react to changes in the economic
environment compared to a legitimate business (Paoli, 2002). Public advertising is impossible,
for one thing, and economies of scale therefore unlikely. Illicit organizations must also operate
‘without the state’’ (Paoli, 2002: 64), and cannot access the full range of business tools and
strategies, including formal legal processes and institutions for enforcing agreements and
arbitrating disputes.
This vulnerability to market forces and the lack of formal dispute resolution mechanisms
mean that threats or acts of violence are often used instead to handle non-cooperative
collaborators or market-raiding competitors. However, such acts provoke another source of
organizational vulnerability, the state. Criminal organizations operate ‘‘against the state’’
(Paoli, 2002: 65) and face a constant risk of interference, member arrest and asset seizure.
Unlike competition, the state is a threat with which licit organizations (operating legitimately)
need not contend. The existence of this threat requires an ‘‘efficiency/security tradeoff’’ by
criminal organizations (Morselli et al., 2007), defined as ‘‘the interplay between the need to act
collectively and the need to assure trust and secrecy within these risky collaborative settings’
(2007: 144). The need for operational secrecy necessarily militates against any kind of resil-
ience deriving from transparent democratic processes.
While dealing in illegal products and having to dodge state bullets increases a criminal
organization’s vulnerability compared with a legitimate business, sometimes not having to
‘play by the rules’ may decrease vulnerability. There are no shareholders to report to, no
institutions to regulate competition or demand explanations, no media to pry into unethical
behaviour. Being an outlaw provides a certain freedom, a lack of accountability that can
facilitate operational and structural change.
6. Gangs as criminal organizations
Some serious criminal organizations begin life on the streets. As Thrasher (1927/1963: 28)
stated, gangs and adult criminal groups tend to ‘‘merge into one another by imperceptible
gradations’’. That is not to say that every gang turns into a more serious criminal group.
Although gangs cause considerable harm in their local communities, most are ephemeral
(Reiss, 1988). In addition, their degree of formal organization is debatable. Many are merely
‘loose, messy, changing friendship networks’’ (Robert Ralphs, cited in Davies, 2008) that
quickly disband. Others persist, but remain quite disorganized over their lifetimes (Klein and
Maxson, 2006). A minority of gangs adopt more serious criminal agendas and cause greater
harm, or harm on a wider geographic scale, than a typical neighbourhood gang. The ‘super-
gangs’ of North and Central America have provided a model for the institutionalisation of other
gangs around the world, such as Black Power and the Mongrel Mob in New Zealand
(Hazlehurst, 2007: 140) and some South African gangs (Kinnes, 2000; Standing, 2006).
Furthermore, gangs can quickly morph into other types of armed groups and back again
(Hagedorn, 2008). The FBI and many other policing organizations are seriously concerned
about the potential of gangs to evolve as organized crime threats (Weisel, 2002a:40e43).
The use of gangs to illustrate the possible sources of resilience for criminal organizations is
therefore apt. It is often unclear where the boundary lies between these more organized gangs
and other criminal groups. Defining the term ‘gang’ has challenged researchers since gang
research began. The term has been used to cover a spectrum of group types, from nuisance-
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causing groups of juveniles to adults conducting profitable illegal businesses together, such as
outlaw motorcycle gangs. Gang characteristics also vary across jurisdictions and cultures
(Weerman and Decker, 2005). The shifting nature of gang membership and the difficulties of
defining ‘organized crime’ also contribute to boundary fuzziness.
Links and overlaps between different criminal organizations highlight the permeability and
arbitrariness of definitional boundaries. Chinese youth gangs have been associated with U.S.
Tongs and Chinese Triads (Broadhurst and King Wa, 2009; Chatterjee, 2006). Some street
gangs in London justify their criminal activities by reference to Islamic theology, with members
‘radicalized’ through extremist contacts in prison (Channel 4, 2008). The PKK in Turkey
smuggles drugs to finance its terrorist activities (Mincheva and Gurr 2008), and the organized
crime syndicate of the Indian gangster Dawood Ibrahim works with terrorist organizations
(Vicziany, 2007). The Bloods gang in New Jersey has reportedly partnered with the Mafia in
a prison drug and cell phone smuggling scheme (Chen and Kocieniewski, 2007). In Counties
Manakau in New Zealand, youth gang members are recruited by adult gangs for amphetamine
trafficking and other criminal activities (Ministry of Social Development, 2006). Despite
a variety of labels, it is increasingly difficult to discern any hard and fast demarcations between
criminal organizations in our globalized world.
What are the sources of gang resilience? We argue that their resilience characteristics are
rooted both in their environments (or ‘‘stability domains’’) and in their unique characteristics,
as displayed in organizational structures and operational strategies.
7. Gang environments
Three environmental sources of gang resilience can be identified: thick crime habitats;
community support; and a high level of interpenetration between gangs and legitimate busi-
nesses and state authorities.
7.1. Thick crime habitats
The concept of a crime habitat is one aspect of the ‘crime ecosystem’ proposed by Felson
(2006: 61).Athick crime habitat contains a multitude of settings for crime and is rich in crime
targets (2006: 231ff.). Thick crime habitats are conducive to resilience because they continually
generate new criminal opportunities for the gang and also provide the space to self-organize to
take advantage of them. These spaces include both ‘offender convergence settings’ (2006:
98e99) where offenders can share information, find co-offenders and make plans, and places to
go to recover from setbacks, such as arrest or injury of members. Thick crime habitats are
plentiful in (although not necessarily limited to) large urban conglomerates, particularly in
weak or failing states.
A thick crime habitat is also likely to host many criminal groups that find the environment
conducive to business. Contact between organizations can lead to a form of organizational
learning known as ‘‘modelling’’ (Braithwaite and Drahos, 2000: 25). Gang members may learn
the methodologies and philosophies of more experienced criminals and use them as role
models. Because of modelling, institutions of incarceration have proved fruitful incubators of
gangs and other criminal groups (Fleisher and Decker, 2001; Hagedorn, 2005, 2008; Hazle-
hurst, 2007; Kelly and Caputo, 2005).
Knowledge and skills learnt from other groups provide a potent tool for environmental
adaptation, as do strategic alliances between groups (Williams, 1995). Affiliation with adult
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gangs may well explain the resilience of some criminal youth gangs in New Zealand, such as
the Auckland Killer Beez, a feeder gang for the Tribesmen motorcycle gang that within six
years has substantially expanded its methamphetamine trafficking and vehicle crime despite
several police operations and considerable competition (Ministry of Social Development, 2006;
Gower, 2008).
7.2. Community support
Gangs often have multilayered relationships with their communities, with community
members not only keen for gang activity to cease but also non-judgmental about individual gang
members, who many regard as victims of the ‘system’ (Aldridge and Medina, 2008). Sometimes
however, instead of promoting efforts to disband gangs, communities support the gang as an
institution. This can have a basis in community traditions (Sa
´nchez-Jankowski, 1991; Spergel
et al., 1994), or stem from benefits the gang bestows. In Jamaica, for instance, some communities
support their local gang because it ‘returns the spoils’ of crime to them (Williams, 2008). Some
larger gangs in the United States have assisted residents with accommodation and bills, protected
them from physical attack and exploitation, organized recreational activities and otherwise
contributed to community well-being (Sa
´nchez-Jankowski, 1991; Venkatesh, 1997, 2006).
Community support may also be based in the ‘‘ghetto’ reputation gangs give an area that keeps
local rents low and the forces of gentrification at bay (Katz and Jackson-Jacobs, 2004). The
relationship between gangs and communities has been described as a ‘working relationship’ or
‘social contract’ (Sa
´nchez-Jankowski, 1991), but a personal component often exists too. Residents
may refuse to ostracize gang members because they are their own, relatives’ and friends’ children,
and sometimes their employees (Venkatesh, 1997).
This kind of community support, even when half-hearted, is clearly a source of resilience for
the gang. It gives members a sanctuary, a place to regroup and reorganize after disruption, and
provides material and psychological resources for that process.
7.3. Degree of interpenetration
No gang or other criminal organization is a stand-alone system. All have a close relationship
with the licit world (Morselli and Gigue
`re, 2006; Spergel et al., 1994; Williams, 1995, 2001).
Relationships between organized crime groups and the state are ‘‘more often symbiotic and
clientelistic than confrontational’’ (Council of Europe, 2005: 20).
5
Criminal enterprises may
both sponsor the state and have its patronage, making it difficult to regard them as unequiv-
ocally opposed to the state (Findlay, 2007).
Collusion with authorities also marks the life passage of many gangs. Hagedorn (2005,
2007) notes that nineteenth century gangs in the United States were used by politicians for
many purposes: Irish ‘voting gangs’ for intimidation of political rivals; white gangs for
enforcing the racial order. In return, politicians sponsored gang ‘social athletic clubs’ and paid
their rents, occasionally moderated police harassment and sometimes provided jobs for
members leaving gangs. In China in 1927, a triad gang, the Green Circle, assisted the ruling
Kuomintang to massacre communists (Hagedorn, 2005). In places as diverse as Jamaica, India
5
Morselli and Gigue
`re (2006) argue that legitimate actors are not just ‘orchestrated’ by criminals, but play a positive
role in structuring criminal networks through providing services and facilitating their operations. Legitimate industries
also influence criminal opportunity structures.
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and South America, gangs today still actively support particular political factions (Hagedorn,
2005, 2008; McCann, 2006).
The businesses of gangs and legitimate firms may also be entangled. Legitimate businesses
both aid gangs and are assisted by them (such as when a nightclub relies on a gang for security
services, overlooking in return its drug dealing on the premises). In addition, some gangs, such
as the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, have extensive investments in legitimate businesses
(Decker et al., 1998). Making such investments requires facilitation by the licit world.
Like a complex web of roots that thwart attempts to remove a tree, the commensal asso-
ciations at both member and group levels between gangs and legitimate businesses and state
authorities provide a source of gang resilience to disturbance.
8. Gang characteristics
Gang resilience is also to be found in characteristics peculiar to a gang itself, such as its
structure and operational methods.
8.1. Semi-structures, empowered members and shared vision
The organizational resilience literature suggests that the structure that best assures an
organization’s survival and adaptability in a turbulent market environment is one that responds
efficiently to signals of imminent change. The most efficient structures are simple ones that
‘regulate without constraining’’ (Cunha and Cunha, 2006: 842). Brown and Eisenhardt (1997:
28) dub these organizational forms ‘‘semi-structures’’, because they ‘‘lie between the extremes
of very rigid and highly chaotic organization’’.
Simple structures are flatter or minimally hierarchical, and decision-making power is therefore
more equally distributed throughout the organization. As a result ‘‘(e)mpowered employees may
respond quicker to challenges simply because they have not to wait for others (and for orders) to
take action’’ (Cunha and Cunha, 2006: 843). To balance this flexibility in the semi-structure,
a clear and shared vision, purpose or set of values is necessary so that empowered actors serve
central strategic objectives rather than their own agendas (Dervitsiotis, 2003: 264).
This prescription for resilience eflattish structures, empowered members and a clear shared
purpose or set of values eas readily applies to criminal organizations as to legitimate ones.
Indeed, resilient gangs appear almost innately semi-structural, given both their origins in spon-
taneous assemblages of youths that predispose them to chaos and the pursuit of individual free-
doms, and their need for a degree of organization for gang protection. Increasing levels of
organization have been observed in more resilient gangs (Decker et al., 1998; Weisel, 2002b).
Differentiated membership levels, leadership roles, regular meetings, written rules and a ‘distinct
outlook’ reflected in rituals and symbols have been identified as some of the indicators of a gang’s
institutionalisation (Decker et al., 2008; Hagedorn, 2008). Such organizational constraints on
individual freedoms provide ‘‘the coordination mechanisms necessary to assure a common
purpose’’ (Cunha and Cunha, 2006: 842). But if a gang’s structure becomes too complex or
bureaucratic, adaptation to changing conditions will become more difficult (Weisel, 2002b).
8.2. Redundancy
The importance of redundancy through diversity for ensuring the resilience of both ecological
systems and corporations has been noted earlier. Redundancy in the form of a diversity of ties
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between actors is also a characteristic of resilient criminal organizations (Williams, 2001).
A network replete with redundant ties will have less difficulty adapting to the removal of actors
through the actions of competitors or police. Institutionalised gangs tend to ensure redundancy by
maintaining a generalist orientation and little role differentiation between members (Weisel,
2002b: 187), but other criminal organizations may recruit specifically for this purpose.
8.3. Network architecture: hubs, weak links and loose coupling
The way a gang is structured therefore matters. The need to incorporate redundancy does not
necessarily imply that a gang network must be large to be resilient. Stohl and Stohl (2007,
writing about terrorist networks) suggest the opposite: an architecture in which highly clustered
segments or hubs displaying strong links between actors and a high level of redundancy are
connected to each other by weak links (Granovetter, 1973) or ‘loose coupling’ reduces
immensely the number of links required to connect up the whole system. A simpler structure
like this may be more resistant to random attacks on nodes/hubs.
The tightness of ‘coupling’ between links is a concept derived from organizational studies
and computing. ‘Loose coupling’ indicates that very little reliance is placed by one node on the
other. Williams (2001: 80) suggests that loose coupling in a criminal network will increase its
resilience, because ‘‘knock-on or cascading effects are limited and damage to one part of the
network does not undermine the network as a whole’’. By analogy, a strike would be more
difficult to bowl if the bowling balls were joined by slack strings rather than taut ones.
Some of the larger American gangs such as MS-13, the Crips and the Bloods, appear to be
structured as networks of hubs, constituted by gang chapters, sets or cliques in different
locations (including prisons), connected by loose couplings. Within hubs, however, ties are
likely to be tight and strong, due to both the need for organizational constraints on individual
actions (as discussed earlier) and a collective defiant response to external interventions that
firms up gang cohesiveness (Klein and Maxson, 2006). The social history of the gang and its
members also affects the nature of ties.
8.4. History and the nature of ties
Ties between actors in a network are not just for information relay: they are also ‘‘sites of sense
making and socialization that reinforce ways of seeing the world and provide sources of role
models and inspiration’’ (Stohl and Stohl, 2007: 100). In other words, ties have a qualitative and
dynamic character. They arise out of social histories that explain how the organization/network
emerged and is likely to develop (Stohl and Stohl, 2007). Similar patterns of ties between actors
may therefore have different behavioural consequences. Both the content of ties and the organ-
ization’s history are significant for predicting how an organization is likely to cope with change.
The social histories of many gangs reveal their origins in immigrant groups, where alienation
has promoted an emphasis on tradition and family. In these circumstances, ethnic and cultural
commonalities, as well as shared experiences of deprivation and discrimination, provide the
glue to band youths together. As von Lampe and Johansen (2003: 12) note, ‘‘ethnic commu-
nities will tend to be characterized by a strong sense of ‘we and they’’. Kinship ties between
gang members are also prevalent. Kinship and ethnicity provide one basis for trust (von Lampe
and Johansen, 2003). As in the kinship webs of the Zealots (Matusitz, 2008), strong trust
between members speeds information flow through a gang, making possible lightning adjust-
ments to game plans and facilitating more measured debate about longer-term adjustments.
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However, close relationships may also increase the vulnerability of an organization should there
be an information leak.
8.5. Secrecy and compartmentalisation
Trust may be grounded not in close social ties but in criminal reputations, or in the
expectation of shared values with members of the same deviant subculture. Moreover, criminal
cooperation can also occur in the absence of trust or between mistrusting network participants
(von Lampe and Johansen, 2003).
The loose couplings linking cohesive hubs have clear benefits for criminal networks but also
present security risks, in the form of a larger pool of potential informants (Jones, 2006).
Nevertheless, for efficiency’s sake, and even absent trust, there remains the need to engage in
partnerships (between these hubs or with other organizations). In terms of an ‘efficiency/
security tradeoff’, if little trust exists, security of information becomes the priority. Security is
often achieved through ‘compartmentalisation’, the isolation of important information within
certain organizational ‘cells’ (Kenney, 2007; Williams, 2001). Compartmentalisation effec-
tively insulates parts of the network from damage wreaked on other parts, allowing fast and
adaptive regeneration of network operations (in cells containing the requisite knowledge)
following attacks by law enforcement. One kind of information a gang may compartmentalise
is the identity of leaders and others filling crucial roles.
8.6. Leadership
Despite eighty years of gang studies, little research had been done on leadership in gangs.
Gang leadership is a somewhat fluid concept. Types of leaders vary between gangs and across
locations. Frequent changes of gang leader and different leaders for distinct gang activities are
not uncommon, and gang leadership may be ‘‘more a function of individual prowess and
reputation than a formalized structure for making collective decisions’’ (FBI’s Criminal
Investigation Division, quoted in Weisel, 2002a: 41). Yet the increasing systemisation of
activities observed in larger gangs suggests that leadership is necessary for coordination of the
institutionalisation process and that leaders are influential in decisions that allow gangs to grow
and adapt. From the existing research, Schneider (2001) concludes that, without leaders to
provide continuity and to mentor younger members, gangs are unlikely to thrive.
Gang resilience may in part be a function of leaders’ personal attributes and how these
influence their decisions and leadership styles. Despite years of ‘trait theory’ research, there
is little indication that successful leaders share a particular set of traits (Vickers and
Kouzmin, 2001). Clearly, a leader’s influence on resilience could be either positive or
negative. A leader’s ideology and temperament, for example, may affect the choices made
between violent or peaceful conflict resolution, thus influencing individual and gang
longevity. The conversion to Islam of Black P Stone Nation (BPSN) leader, Jeff Fort, led to
the Chicago BPSN changing its name to El Rukns and the subsequent involvement of gang
members in and their imprisonment for a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts as mercenaries
for al-Qadhafi.
Different leadership styles may have variable consequences. Participative leadership styles
are thought to heighten creativity within an organization, and authoritarian styles to diminish it
(Woodman et al., 1993). Flatter structures are more likely to exhibit participative decision-
making and flexible leadership styles, and thus more creativity, than bureaucratic or hierarchical
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structures. Weisel (2002b) found participative decision-making mechanisms in all four of the
large institutionalised U.S. gangs she studied.
8.7. Bricolage
Bricolage is an ability to take available resources, even if seemingly unconnected, and make
something new from them. Gangs, like legitimate organizations, need skills of bricolage in
order to respond creatively to environmental change and hostile interventions. Creativity is
facilitated by flatter structures because information flows more readily through them. Infor-
mation constitutes the resources for a strategy-focused bricolage and is comprised of both new
information and stored experiential knowledge.
Where an organization imposes constraints on information flow to minimize risks to its
survival, its creativity may decrease (Kenney, 2006; Woodman et al., 1993). Accordingly, to
maximise resilience, criminal organizations need to find the appropriate balance between self-
protection through secrecy and a free flow of information and know-how so that members can
think creatively about embracing or generating change.
8.8. Organizational learning
How might a gang ensure that its members are properly informed and have the skills to adapt
to change? Criminal organizations learn in the same ways legitimate organizations do, but face
additional challenges. Zollo and Winter (2002) suggest that organizational learning takes place
in three ways: experience accumulation (learning by doing); deliberate knowledge articulation;
and knowledge codification.
Through being faced by challenges and overcoming them, organizations learn what works
and what doesn’t. Experience shapes new operating routines, and also the development of
procedures for changing those routines: ‘‘[i]n short, organizations learn to change by changing’
(Amburgey et al., 1993: 54). Drug trafficking organizations, for example, often tinker with their
routes and methods of drug transportation in order to keep one step ahead of law enforcement.
Much of the knowledge articulation within criminal organizations happens informally in the
course of social interactions (Kenney, 2007). Gangs mostly disseminate and gather knowledge
in this way. But learning may also take place more formally, through meetings, training
sessions, fact finding ‘missions’ (as with the Colombian drug traffickers Kenney studied),
outside consultants, the use of technology, and contacts with other organizations. Strategic
alliances between criminals allow synergies to develop and ‘‘strategic gaps’’ in resource
availability to close (Williams, 1995). Over time, some harmonisation of practices and ideas
between organizations might even take place through observation and modelling.
Codification of knowledge is de rigeur in and often legally required of legitimate organi-
zations, but for criminal organizations, documentation may disclose its shady practices and
plans, so codification tends to be minimized. This poses problems for organizational memory,
as mental records are ‘‘more likely to be forgotten, manipulated, or subject to faulty recall’
(Kenney, 2006: 157), and are difficult to disseminate widely, particularly across loose networks.
However, because tacit knowledge or ‘know-how’ cannot be easily replicated, its diffusion is
especially important. Organizational memory is key to learning, as it enables retrieval of the
lessons of history despite personnel changes and avoids the need to reinvent the wheel.
Compartmentalisation of information also handicaps learning by creating barriers to
information flows (Jackson, 2006; Kenney, 2007). One hub or cell may end up repeating
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another’s mistakes. Other impediments to learning include competency traps (use of familiar
rather than new routines or technologies for reasons of efficiency) (Jackson, 2006), imperfect
information, individual biases and blind spots, and the constraints of internal politics (Kenney,
2006).
Effective learning for any organization is fraught, but is especially so for criminal organi-
zations needing to disseminate knowledge efficiently whilst limiting access to certain infor-
mation. The resilient criminal organization masters learning and knowledge diffusion without
compromising security.
9. Conclusion
Some gangs last and may be ‘‘nearly invulnerable to repression’’ (Hagedorn, 2008: 10). This
is small comfort for the communities that must still cope with their everyday troublesome
presence. Drawing on theories of ecological and organizational resilience, this article develops
a resilience approach to the longevity of some criminal organizations. Developing new
approaches that help us to understand the survivability of criminal organizations is important
for many reasons, including cost. For example, serious organized crime is estimated to cost
Australia in excess of $10 billion annually (Australian Crime Commission, 2009).
A resilience perspective provides a fresh approach to designing strategies to minimize the
damaging impacts of criminal organizations and highlights that there are many sites of possible
intervention. For police organizations, thinking about resilience suggests several strategic and
operational pathways.
Strategically, a resilience perspective calls for an ecological approach to intelligence gath-
ering. Because every criminal organization is a unique and changing system sited within and
influenced by its particular evolving stability domain, extensive intelligence is required on
a continuing basis. A ‘snapshot’ of an organization at one time will clearly not be a sufficient
basis for crafting interventions for all time.
Second, a resilience perspective confirms the findings of a number of gang researchers
(see Klein and Maxson, 2006; Decker et al., 2008) that interventions risk having unintended
consequences. Rather than decrease an organization’s resilience, law enforcement action might
stimulate an organizational adaptation that is more resilient and perhaps more harmful.
Particularly unstable organizations such as gangs, for example, may ‘robustly transform’ or
‘tip’ into a new stability domain, altering their character, objectives, ideology or activities. An
assessment of this risk can only be made on the basis of the most current intelligence available.
In some instances, it may be wiser not to intervene.
Where intervention by the state is considered appropriate, a resilience perspective could
contribute to operational planning. Reducing a gang’s resilience may be achieved through
shrinking its stability domain. For example, offender convergence settings might be identified
and eliminated, and community support for a gang reduced by effectively addressing the
community’s financial and social needs through partnerships between law enforcement and
other agencies. Similarly, an organization’s internal sources of resilience could be identified and
creative responses forged. Skills of bricolage residing in certain gang members and currently
directed to gang adaptation, for example, might be encouraged and redirected into legitimate
employment. For instance, gang members adept at car rebirthing might be trained as
mechanics. Careful analysis of gang structures may facilitate the targeting of close member
relationships for covert interference or of loose couplings for further weakening. Disruption of
gang learning processes may be attempted.
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More research on resilience is clearly desirable. In particular, empirical studies of individual
criminal organizations, identifying their sources of resilience and how these work to ensure their
growth and survival in practice, would provide a basis for more targeted strategic and operational
approaches by law enforcement. Clearly, in order to test theory and sharpen its usefulness, such studies
would be best conducted through cooperative arrangements between practitioners and academics.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in
Policing and Security. Many thanks to Professors Peter Drahos, Peter Grabosky and Michael
Stohl and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.
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Supply chain security and resilience represent the key aspects of the long-term sustainability and well-being of current societies. The ability of global supply chains to be resilient and flexible has to face a wide range of threats, uncertainties, and sudden shifts in case the time and necessary resources for the adequate reaction are limited. Challenges affecting supply chains, which companies have to deal with, result from a changeable environment and threats in the form of sudden demand shifts as well as unavailability of necessary resources caused by security threats. A conceptual model based on a modified CPM method was created on the basis of the scientific literature review research, focusing on available open sources and data, and subsequently applied to the further development of global distribution chains, logistics infrastructure, and availability of logistics capabilities. Possible approaches and methods of mitigation of the constraints to supply chains were discussed.
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The final part of this investigation makes an update on the state of the MFBMMFBM after a large-scale crackdown during 2019 under the ObradorObrador presidency. For this conclusive chapter we leave behind the original structure of the investigation (going from the macro to the micro) to return to a national-level analysis. The reason behind this is the possibility of putting the framework of this research to the test of the extraordinary circumstances brought on by the state clampdown. This section will delve into the energy and security context under Obrador as well as the crackdown strategy on the MFBM and its consequences. This analysis will also allow to explore the resiliency of criminal networkscriminal networks, their response towards the crackdown (that involves black market diversification) and to speculate about the MFBM’s future. All these elements help reflect on a wider level on Mexico’s worsening security crisis and the massive challenges posed by modern-day criminality in general.
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For this chapter, after explaining the recent history and recent situation of the MFBM, we continue describing the factors behind its explosive growth. The list is not exhaustive, but it includes the most relevant elements identified by my investigation and the informed insights of my interviewees. These factors are: (1) the fragmentation of criminal networks and their diversification into other black markets, (2) the co-option of grey actors and (3) the increase of fuel prices in Mexico between 2011 and 2018. These factors, though applied to Mexico, can prove relevant to other scenarios involving organized crime by illustrating the connection between black markets, institutional fragility and economic changes.
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Contemporary Patterns—Wildlife trafficking is not isolated to the remote regions of the planet or specific to the areas with high biodiversity or a high number of endemic species. It is a ubiquitous activity that either through supply, transfer, or demand affects most nations of the globe. This chapter provides updated patterns of smuggling as well as gives estimates as to the extent of wildlife trafficking that is taking place in the different regions. This chapter also revisits the reasons for the demand for wildlife and wildlife products. Drawing on previous work, the demand is broken down into four categories: processed commodities, collectors’ items, traditional medicines, and food. For each of these categories, the parameters, which make them distinctive, are given and the global smuggling patterns for that category are detailed. The chapter then breaks down the supply side dynamics of wildlife trafficking, making a case for combating this crime particularly from the demand end rather than previous tactics, which have tended to only focus on curbing the supply.
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From Pablo to Osama is a comparative study of Colombian drug-smuggling enterprises, terrorist networks (including al Qaeda), and the law enforcement agencies that seek to dismantle them. Drawing on a wealth of research materials, including interviews with former drug traffickers and other hard-to-reach informants, Michael Kenney explores how drug traffickers, terrorists, and government officials gather, analyze, and apply knowledge and experience. The analysis reveals that the resilience of the Colombian drug trade and Islamist extremism in wars on drugs and terrorism stems partly from the ability of illicit enterprises to change their activities in response to practical experience and technical information, store this knowledge in practices and procedures, and select and retain routines that produce satisfactory results. Traffickers and terrorists "learn," building skills, improving practices, and becoming increasingly difficult for state authorities to eliminate. The book concludes by exploring theoretical and policy implications, suggesting that success in wars on drugs and terrorism depends less on fighting illicit networks with government intelligence and more on conquering competency traps-traps that compel policymakers to exploit militarized enforcement strategies repeatedly without questioning whether these programs are capable of producing the intended results. Copyright
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This article examines the extent to which street gangs are becoming organized crime groups. Active gang members were asked about gang structure and organization, gang activities, and relationships between their gang and other groups. Gang members were interviewed in an emerging gang city, San Diego, and an established gang city, Chicago. Members of one African-American and one Hispanic gang were interviewed in each city. Roughly equal numbers of members were imprisoned and on probation. The results suggest that, with the exception of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, there is little evidence that gangs are assuming the attributes of organized crime groups.
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Utilizing a sample of 150 part-time MBA students, this study evaluated the relationship between leader behaviors and subordinate resilience. We proposed that the transformational leadership dimensions of Attributed Charisma, Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, and Individualized Consideration, as well as the transactional leadership dimension of Contingent Reward would be positively associated with subordinate resilience. We also proposed that the transactional leadership dimensions of Management-by-Exception Active and Management-by-Exception Passive and the non-leadership dimension of Laissez-Faire leadership would not be positively associated with subordinate resilience. With the exception of Inspirational Motivation, all hypothesized relationships were supported. A post-hoc analysis of open-ended responses to the question "What helped you to deal with this situation? " indicated that participants who mentioned their leaders as a positive factor in dealing with the situation exhibited greater resilience than participants who did not. The implications of these results and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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The concept of resilience has evolved considerably since Holling's (1973) seminal paper. Different interpretations of what is meant by resilience, however, cause confusion. Resilience of a system needs to be considered in terms of the attributes that govern the system's dynamics. Three related attributes of social-ecological systems (SESs) determine their future trajectories: resilience, adaptability, and transformability. Resilience (the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks) has four components-latitude, resistance, precariousness, and panarchy-most readily portrayed using the metaphor of a stability landscape. Adaptability is the capacity of actors in the system to influence resilience (in a SES, essentially to manage it). There are four general ways in which this can be done, corresponding to the four aspects of resilience. Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable. The implications of this interpretation of SES dynamics for sustainability science include changing the focus from seeking optimal states and the determinants of maximum sustainable yield (the MSY paradigm), to resilience analysis, adaptive resource management, and adaptive governance.
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The growing presence of street gangs in Canada is raising the concern of law enforcement officials across the country. In particular, the relationship between street gangs and organized crime groups is increasingly being seen as a cause for concern. Canada is experiencing many of the phenomena identified by American researchers studying gang activity in that country. Gang migration, the proliferation of street gangs, increased gang violence, the appearance of transnational gangs and the recruitment of street gang members in the prison system are all occurring in Canada. While primarily still an urban problem, street gangs in some regions have begun to penetrate rural areas with typically negative consequences. This study revealed that street gangs can be linked to organized crime groups in a number of ways. However, some respondents noted that street gangs can also be independent criminal enterprises in their own right. These street gangs employ sophisticated methods and engage in complex criminal activities. The respondents indicated that these types of street gangs should be identified and treated as organized crime groups.
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Assumptions of resilience are frequently made about organizational actors, both by scholars and practitioners. It is argued that resilience is unlikely to be the usual outcome from the trauma routinely confronted in organizational life. It is suggested that ‘assumptions’ of resilience stem from either a reification of what is perceived to be a highly desirable trait in organizational actors or a lack of acknowledgement of what, if recognized, would be regarded as an ‘unthinkable’ aspect of organizational life. Managers are unlikely to recognize and admit that the pain they inflict on others in the name of efficiency, organizational down-sizing and out-sourcing will contribute to long-term changes in organizational actors. It is also likely that, while coping skills and resources may be sufficient to equip individuals for the myriad problems they routinely face, even the ‘successful’ actor may not remain unscathed. Some of the negative organizational outcomes of this unthinking ‘assumption’ of resilience are canvassed and suggestions are made as to what strategies may ameliorate the situation. A rearticulation of actors' ‘voice’ in formal organization, at a time of a hegemonic dominance of economic rationalism, is especially overdue.