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Vincenzo Ruggiero compares criminal organisations involved in drug distribution and drug-related crime in Italy and England.


There are recurrent features in the definition of organised crime, among which is the notion that its members are endowed with criminal skills acquired by means of long-term apprenticeship. The polemic between Donald Cressey and Joseph Albini hides the fact that the above-mentioned notion belongs to both authors and many others after them. Cressey’s description of organised crime is based on a so called bureaucratic model, whereby different groups or families are said to coordinate and direct, within a Commission formed by representatives of all groups, all activities carried out on the national territory (Cressey, 1969). Albini suggests instead that organised crime is not to be viewed as a nation wide conspiracy, but should be described as a series of local, relatively independent entities which are loosely structured and only informally coordinated (Albini, 1971).Now, these interpretations describe networks and relationships which, if differently structured, nevertheless involve similar actors, namely professional criminals or ‘men of honour’ . These actors are given a central location in many definitions of organised crime, thus conveying the idea that activities are only performed by criminals who are extremely skilled, have undertaken an exclusive career and are often related either by familial or ethnic bonds. Other definitions, which do not only focus on professionalism, can help develop a more fruitful perspective when organised crime is analysed vis-a vis the drug economy.

According to Haller, families constituting organised crime are not to be regarded as centrally controlled business enterprises. Rather, members independently conduct their activity:

A family, then, is a group which is separate from a member’s economic ventures and to which members belong roughly in the same way that legal businessmen might join a Rotary Club. Haller (1992, p. 2)

The author also argues that many members are not involved in permanent structures or engaged in long term partnerships. They may undertake one off operations, make temporary alliances with legal or illegal entrepreneurs and often recruit part-timers. We will see how these characteristics aptly describe the drug economies in the two countries considered, and how they are crucial for a definition of organised crime in the respective contexts.

Employees of criminal organisations pose a serious threat to their employers:

The entrepreneur aims then to structure his relationship with employees so as to reduce the amount of information available to them concerning his own participation and to ensure that they have minimal incentive to inform against him. Reuter (1983, p. 115′

This threat can be reduced if employees are recruited among family members and close associates who guarantee a degree of loyalty. However, this is not possible for all illegal businesses, especially those presenting with large and ramified distribution structures. The drugs economy, for instance, does not lend itself to centralised control by entrepreneurs whose capacity to monitor the suitability and skills of dealers is very limited. The fact that many dealers are also users, the precariousness of their ‘job’ and the high turnover in the economy in which they participate are an indication of this. In other words, the involvement of organised groups in the drug economy may lead to their relative ‘disorganisation’. It may also entail a shift in the way in which profits are made and the occupation a characteristics of those who contribute to its creation Individuals devoid of a previous criminal career may constitute the majority of employees in the drug economy, but paradoxically their ‘non-professional’ and disorganised illegal acts end up benefiting their professional and organised employers. Moreover, it is often the case that drug selling is a complement to rather than a substitute for, legitimate employment which explains the rudimentary skills of many user and small distributors (Reuteretal.,1990). Surely, the notion that organised crime is a monolithic structure formed exclusively by professional affiliates loose pertinence when its involvement in the drug economy is observed. Here, organised groups are forced to renounce the traditional regulatory function commonly attributed to them. Petty, disorganised and opportunist offences can no longer be controlled or regulated, as they become an important component of organised crime itself.

This seems to have occurred in both Italy and Britain, the specific drug economies of which are briefly described below.

The involvement of Italian organised crime in the drug economy dates back to the 1950s . One of the first large seizures occurred in 195Z, when 6 kg of heroin were found in the area between Palermo and Trapani (Santino and La Fiura, 1993). Among those arrested were distributors residing both in Sicily and the USA. Other traffickers and wholesale distributors operated in the north of Italy, where some industrialists managed to divert quantities of heroin from the legal to the illegal market. According to the Anti-Mafia Commission set up by the Italian parliament, for a period Lucky Luciano obtained drugs from these ‘licit’ dealers of pharmaceuticals (Commissione Antimafia, 1976; Pantaleone, 1976). When a laboratory for the processing of heroin was discovered near Milan, it was clear that Italian criminal groups also purchased the substance in the producing countries and, after refining it in Italy, exported it to the USA. This pattern of activity was destined to remain unaltered until a proper heroin market developed in Italy around the early 1970s.

It is during the course of the 1970s and the 1980s that the participation of organised crime in the drug economy assumed new characteristics. Judge Falcone’s investigation proved that decisions regarding the involvement in illegal drugs were never taken centrally, but were the result of personal initiative (Falcone, 1991). In other words, the drug business gave the old mafia families the opportunity to claim independence from so-called consortia, commissions or domes (the organ where members of the different traditional mafia families allegedly plan and coordinate their exploits). All super grasses of the mafia confirmed that finances invested into drugs came neither from the common assets of the organisation nor from the collective proceeds accumulated by members of a specific family. The money invested was part of individually owned finance. Members who resolved to enter the drug business, therefore, had the opportunity to build partnerships with other investors who were not part of their family or, for that matter, members of the mafia (Arlacchi, 1992; Gambetta, 1992). The informant Antonino Calderone tells of the way in which some men of honour could sometimes become independent from their very family if their attempt to build up a remunerative drug business was successful. Among these was Pippo Bono, who ‘never took sides with any precise group within the organisation, and would always be absent in critical moments’ (Arlacchi,1992, p.136). Pippo Bono was perhaps the first example of a member of the mafia being able to abstain from the war between families, while becoming a partner with other legal or illegal entrepreneurs.

In some cases the members of traditional organised crime in Italy performed the role of mediators, as they invested somebody else’s money in the drug economy. In other cases, both imported drugs and drugs refined in Italian laboratories were sold to wholesale distributors who did not belong to traditional groups or families. In other words, as a result of the typical hierarchical structure which distinguishes drug distribution, ‘men of honour’ were forced to deal with ‘ordinary men’. Among middle range distributors individuals emerged who had acquired skills and funds in previous criminal activities on the one hand, and entrepreneurs who were devoid of those skills but only owned funds on the other. In turn, small scale distribution was also taken on by individuals who had never been associated with organised crime (Ruggiero, 1993a) . In sum, the involvement in the drug economy started a process whereby traditional organised crime such as the mafia slowly lost its characteristic traits while becoming similar to other organised groups. None of the prevailing groups managed to establish a monopoly in the distribution of illegal drugs. Rather, they shared an oligopoly with regard to both the national tenritory and the specific local market which they supplied. It is their common characteristics which render them comparable within the national and the international context. A look at the distribution structure in a number of major Italian cities will help identify these characteristics.

The spread of the heroin and cocaine businesses in Naples, for instance, was possible because of certain factors which typify the history of the town. Among these are: first, the existence of previous illegal markets and smuggling networks by which a variety ox both legal and illegal goods circulate; second, organised criminal groups exist which are already well rooted in the local economy and in the regional political structure (Lamberti,1989; Sales,1989); third, there are available a large labour force and a reserve of casual labour, recruited both in the hidden economy and in the adjacent illegal economy. These factors are connected, directly or otherwise, to the evolution of the Camorra – the Napolitan organised crime syndicate – whose history is in many ways almost inseparable from the economic history of the town (Ruggiero, 1993b) . First by smuggling agricultural products, then by dealing with the illicit trade in foreign cigarettes and later by buying and selling untaxed commodities, the Camorra achieved a substantive form of ‘primitive’ accumulation of finance.

The explosion of the drug phenomenon in Naples encouraged local criminal groups to invest capital which was previously earmarked for smuggling. At the top of the distribution chain, the entrepreneurial efficiency of these groups was transferred into the drug economy. Here some ‘legal’ entrepreneurs also took a chance, in particular those who were insolvent debtors to organised criminal groups from which they had previously borrowed money. Other entrepreneurs started participating in the drug economy after accepting a deal: they would be exempted from the payment of protection money if they offered a loan to be invested in business whose nature they officially ignored or pretended to do so . Those involved in street distribution were recruited from street sellers who were previously dealing with other smuggled commodities, but also from the semi-official labour market which characterises the economic structure of the town. It has been shown that among user-distributors, in fact, many are devoid of a previous criminal apprenticeship and cannot be identified with a distinct criminal subculture (Feo,1989).

A similar pattern can be observed in Rome. Here, both heroin and cocaine are distributed by a coalition of Neapolitan or Sicilian groups and local groups of professional criminals. The former, in a sense, are forced to set up alliances with the latter because they would otherwise be unable to access the local distribution network:

Monthly consignments would be shipped to Italy and passed on to elements of the Roman underworld for distribution at intermediate level within the domestic market. Lewis (1989, p.40)

Some independent distributors also operate who are not connected with larger criminal groups. They do not rely on sophisticated chains of distribution, but service the market immediately after importation Many neophytes are found both within these group and among the street sellers and user-distributors who are ’employed’ by local professional criminals.

In Milan, which presents with broadly similar characteristics, groups previously engaged in armed robberies shifted to both trafficking and wholesale distribution. As elsewhere, contacts were made with members of traditional organised crime which initially provided the consignments and, often, ended up engaging in joint ventures with them. Drug reduced the entity of other criminal activities and partially co-opted those who were involved in them But this process does not seem to have taken place in a mechanistic or smooth manner, especially at low distribution level. An illuminating piece of research conducted a few years ago in the area of Milan, for example, recorded the opinions of a number of petty property offenders (Bianchi, 1986). Many of those interviewed rejected a regular job but also refused the prospect of being employed by organised criminal groups on a regular basis. They likened organised crime to ordinary systems of employment, both being regarded as ‘brutal exploiters’. Some showed a sense of pride in their illegal professionalism and independence, and claimed to be unprepared to relinquish both in exchange for a ‘secure’ job. Drug distribution in their view a secure job, was regarded by many a’ highly dishonourable. That the responses of these property offenders were sincere was partly proved by later criminal statistics regarding the same city. Very few street distributors arrested in Milan between 1987 and 1991 had a record of property offence (ISTAT,1992).

In Verona, as judicial evidence shows, the drugs economy is not sustained by a typical marginalised underworld or promoted by long-term criminal entrepreneurs. An important role in the development of the drugs economy here is played by the dissemination of pure entrepreneurial spirit and by a ‘strong market oriented mentality in every section of the local economy and in large parts of the population’ (Arlacchi and Lewis,1989, p.152) . In Verona drug use and distribution have spread despite the absence of organised groups previously involved in other illicit markets. Indeed, one could argue that the drug economy prospered because no traditional mafia-type episodes of violent competition occurred which would attract the attention of institutional agencies. Transactions in the illicit drugs market take place according to the shared rules of fair bargaining, and disputes are rarely settled with violence. A research study conducted in the late 1970s proved that the drug users of Verona were so young that few had acquired skills and competence in criminal activities. Devoid of previous apprenticeship, they were mostly arrested ‘in the act’, the charges brought against them being ‘attempted theft’, ‘attempted robbery’, etc. (Picotti,1979). More recent studies show that users and small distributors are initiated in drugs via the common channels of socialisation, and not through learning processes associated with marginalisation or crime (Avico, 1983; Arlacchi and Lewis,1989) . Many are employed and become unemployed only after developing a drug use career (70% ); others start using and dealing while active in the licit economy, and eventually continue to hold a position in it.

Finally, in Turin the first purchases of large quantities of drugs were undertaken by ‘adventurous’ entrepreneurs who ran small licit businesses. They did so after forming joint ventures with ex-cigarette smugglers, or other professional criminals who shifted to the drug business such as bank robbers and bosses of illegal gambling houses (Ruggiero,1992). My own informants in Turin claim that large-scale operations gathered momentum when the small groups o users gave up self-supply, which they had previously practised by means of independent trips to Amsterdam. In the mid- 1970s, the newly constituted groups of ‘professionals’ could buy larger quantities for each operation at a cheaper price. They were both less ‘visible’ when crossing borders and more reliable in the eyes of the larger distributors operating in Amsterdam. Only eventually did traditional organised groups such as the mafia enter the drug market of Turin. However, when they managed to do so, they never achieved a monopolistic position in it, and had to be content with sharing an oligopoly with other groups. As for the user-distributors, official statistics show that very few are able to develop a real career in the economy of drugs, because they are intermittently arrested either after committing the same type of offence or while possessing the same quantity of drug (ISTAT, 1992). In other words, their career is ‘blocked’, for they prove incapable of ascending the distribution hierarchy and acquiring the professionalism needed to do so.

The drug business in Italy both remodelled traditional organised crime and shaped new organised groups which occupy, along with the former, the leading positions in it. A new definition of organised crime seems therefore to be necessary, one that encompasses both the mafia-type organisations and the emerging groups. I will suggest such a definition after examining the drugs economy in England. The material I have provided so far suggests that the drug business fosters a process whereby the creation of a number of ‘expendable labourers’ servicing the market run parallel with a drive towards more structured and professionalised operations . These developments are not in opposition. On the contrary, it is the employment of one that allows for the promotion of the other.

In England, many commentators indicate the early 1980s as a turning point for drug distribution. Supply, which was locally centred and poorly structured, became increasingly organised and regularised ( Stimson, 1987 ) . The explosion of the heroin phenomenon is said to have favoured this shift, which is commonly also described in relation to the variety of the substances available on the market and the respective producing countries. Chinese, Iranian and Pakistani illicit drugs successively predominated in the markets of English cities, a circumstance that leads many observers to investigate the trafficking routes and the criminal enterprises connected to these producing countries.

Two crucial features are usually regarded as necessary for an efficient trafficking network. The first is impermeabilty with regard to police enquiries. The second is honesty in transactions and compliance with verbal agreements. ‘There are a couple of institutions that measure up excellently to such requirements. One is the blood family, the other is the expatriate ethnic community. Both have done well out of drugs trading, (Tyler, 1986, p. 249 ). As a result of their ancient custom of reciprocity and their system of payment entirely based on trust, the Chinese illicit firms are said to have carried out business undisturbed for years. Allegedly, their sophisticated money laundering system allowed for operations to be virtually undetected. Heroin, which was bought in the Golden Triangle and routed through Hong Kong, would reach England concealed among other products destined for the Chinese immigrant community. Underground banking would then guarantee the invisibility of profits (Nove, 1991).

While charting the development of drug trafficking in England, one may become entangled in the vexed questions surrounding the relationship between race and crime. In particular, there is a danger that the notion of drugs as an alien conspiracy is unwittingly endorsed. This notion has been adequately demythologised on a number of occasions. However, it is important to add a number of observations which are frequently lacking in the already existing literature on this issue. The drug economy seems also to mirror the licit economies with respect to its division of labour. In countries with large ethnic minorities, the disadvantages based on race, which are usually found within the official labour market, are in a sense reproduced within the criminal labour market. Often, the most remunerative positions within criminal economies are occupied by indigenous groups, whereas the most poorly paid and dangerous tasks are entrusted to minorities. In England, for example, some groups or individuals engaged in the importation of drugs may well belong to ethnic minorities, but the ‘added value’ involved in their task may be much lower than that involved in wholesale distribution. In turn, wholesale and middle range distribution are frequently controlled by indigenous groups who have easier access to the market and to smaller distributors who service it. In South London I came across examples of this race related division of labour. A street dealer explained that black people find it difficult to climb the criminal career echelon, because of their visibility and the lack of trust with which they are regarded. In other words, in the criminal economy they find the same obstacles they meet in the official one (Ruggiero, 1 993c) . These aspects should be borne in mind while looking at the drug business in England.

Iranian groups are singled out as major heroin importers during the period 1982-1984. It is presumed that drugs constituted a currency for middle class migrants who escaped the Ayatollah regime and brought their assets to London, where they found refuge (Burr, 1984). The new settlers continued to feed limited sectors of the market for about 2 years after the collapse of the old regime. The fact that they never developed a highly remunerative economy is perhaps the result of their lack of contacts with locally established figures. White English drug distributors, in effect, did business with other importers and dealt with higher quality drugs than the Iranian variety.
Their successors are purported to be Pakistani illegal entrepreneurs, who managed to reach a virtual monopoly on the London market around the mid1980s. These entrepreneurs are said to be still in operation and to rely on partners who reside in the producing country and act as mediators with local growers (di Gennaro, 1991; Labrousse, 1991). From reports of major seizures it appears that importers do not only include professional criminal firms, but also ‘clean’ business people who may either indulge in one-off operations or engage permanently in drug trading as a sideline of their licit business.

As traffickers try to conceal the country from where the product is imported, drugs are said to pass through shunting countries which are not immediately identified as drug-producing countries. The role of India is often explained in these terms, as this country acts as a shipping stage for drugs which eventually reach England. It is hypothesised that some Indian entrepreneurs act as importers, and the fact that they never severed familial and commercial links with their motherland, along with their proverbial trading ability, are taken as an indication of their involvement in drug trafficking (Tyler,1986).

Another import route is believed to run overland through Turkey and the Balkans. Importers are said to be working in kilograms of drugs, which reach England either directly or through other less ‘suspect’ countries (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1987). Nigeria is deemed one of the most important staging posts for drugs entering England (McCarthy and Kirby,1990). Heroin following this route is often seized at British airports, and Nigerian drug importers form the largest single group of foreign prisoners in British institutions (ILPS,1990). Research conducted by Green (1991) revealed that 72% of persons imprisoned for illegal importation of drugs were foreign nationals. ‘Africans combined account for 35% of this population, with the largest national category being Nigerian (30% of the total)’ (Green,1991, p.5). On June 1990,26% of women under sentence were known to have been convicted of drug offences, compared with 8% of men on the same date. Almost 26% of women in prison were of minority ethnic origin, which compares with 17% on 30 June 1985. This unprecedented increase is attributed to the growing drug-related offences committed by women. ‘Many of the women are drug couriers from other countries, who will be deported after serving a prison sentence’ (Nacro,1991, p.2).

It is to be noted that import operations and distribution are not likely to be undertaken by the same groups. We have seen that a large majority of apprehended importers and couriers are foreign nationals. These are in no position to master the distribution network in their host country. Therefore, they are forced to sell consignments to local established figures with whom they end up establishing business on a permanent basis. These local figures act as wholesalers and, after buying from importers, pass over quantities of drugs to a number of locally based middle-range distributors. Some wholesalers are reported to have been previously engaged in armed robberies. Presumably, they never managed to invest the proceeds of their raids in legitimate business, and their shift towards drugs was encouraged by the increasing use of fire arms on the part of the police (Taylor, 1984). Drugs were welcomed as a long overdue chance to put guns away. Journalistic accounts also suggest that, after an initial resistance to drug dealing, some professional criminals ‘soon realised that here was a new way of making money that required no getaway car and ran less risk of informers. It had the added advantage that there was no victim running to the police’ (Campbell,1990, p.5).

Among this type of wholesale distributors, defined by Dorn and South (1990) as ‘criminal diversifier’, groups are found which were or are still active in the distribution of stolen goods. It is assumed that a number of criminal diversifiers were formerly owners of scrap metal businesses, a traditional activity among organised gangs in London. Illegal entrepreneurs who shifted to wholesale drug distribution capitalised on their knowledge of sale networks and their awareness regarding the quantity and quality of customers’ demand. This knowledge and awareness mainly belong to traditional indigenous gangs, hence their crucial role in drug supply.

Hobbs (1988) has thoroughly studied the semi-legal entrepreneurial culture prevailing in East London, whose peculiar economic structure ‘required generation upon generation of individuals to acquire and internalise the essential characteristics of the business entrepreneur’ (Hobbs, 1988, p.117). Here, an elite seems to be operating which, after accumulating finance in traditional semi-legal trade, performed an economic conversion to include the drug trade. This shift may not have been traumatic, as ‘the East End entrepreneur deals and trades in commodities and services within the parameters of a localised version of legitimate business practice’ (Hobbs,198, p.118).

Middle-range distributors are in contact with specific communities where street dealers operate. Research suggests that at this level of drug distribution individuals and groups are found who are already involved in a variety of activities in the so-called irregular economy. This economy provides those who inhabit it with a ‘facilitating subculture’, but also with precise skills, structures and roles. ‘The irregular economy provides multiple conduits for the distribution and exchange of drugs, and for a variety of other good and services, prostitution, the disposal of stolen goods and so on’ (Auld et al,1986, p.172). It also provides position within its structure which is modelled upon more or less strict division of labour. It is my contention that the conversion of part of this irregular economy to the drug business made its internal division of labour increasingly rigid. Research, including my own, seems to prove that those who benefit from this conversion are mainly individuals who already held an entrepreneurial or managerial position in the irregular economy, whereas those whose role was con fined to the provision of ‘pure criminal labour’, with the shift to drugs, experienced an exacerbation or their economic dependence.

Many users experiment with drugs while inhabiting the irregular economy, where drugs add to other illicit goods already circulating. Those who develop habitual use, and in particular those who resort to property crime as a result of this, become increasingly dependent on that economy that provides them with both the doses and the market where their stolen goods are circulated. Often, they are forced to give up their ‘wage’, as transactions take on a non-monetary nature. The exchange therefore may not entail the trinomial ‘goods-money-drug’, but simply the binomial ‘goods-drug’.

The illegal activities conducted by this type of user imply an immutable pattern of tasks within a career which is virtually stagnant. Users who have been followed up in their career show how their frenetic activities do not translate into upward mobility (Ruggiero, 1993c). A revolving-door situation prevents them from improving their skills. This also applies to users who were not ‘working’ in the irregular economy before their drug-using career: their lack of apprenticeship keeps them at the bottom of the drug hierarchy. Jarvis and Parker (1989) attempted an economic evaluation of the illicit activities carried out by users, who were found to receive only a small fraction of the value of the commodities handled. While moving considerable wealth from one place to another and from one person to another, the wealth retained by them consisted primarily of drug doses. Moreover ‘despite the glamour of the setting and the considerable sums of money involved, many subjects described repetitive life-styles of dull uniformity’ (Jarvis and Parker,1989, p .182) .

The number of seizures of drugs such as heroin decreased between 1986 and 1990 from 323 to 272. At the same time, the quantities of the same drug seized leaped from 179 kg to 575 kg (Home Office,1992). I believe that these figures indicate changes in the structure of drug supply which can be summarised as follows. Wholesale operations are increasingly conducted by well-organised groups who have access to large quantities of drugs and are in a position to invest large quantities of money. To minimise risk, but also thanks to the increasing finance at their disposal, these groups undertake a reduced number of operations involving larger amounts of drugs. Wholesalers, in other words, experienced a selective process whereby only those endowed with effectiveness, professionalism and larger funds were left in operation. On the other hand, the number of people stopped and searched for drugs by the police rose from 32 500 to 97 800 (Home Office,1992). This tripling in drug seizure opportunities at street level did not result in more drugs being found. Street dealers and user-distributors, in other words, did not show an increased level of participation in the drug economy over a period of 5 years. The age composition of drug offenders may also yield interesting information. In 1990 well over half the drug offenders were aged 17-24, and very few had a criminal record before involvement in drug use and petty distribution. Young and clumsy, many did not have the time to accomplish criminal skills, a circumstance which exposed them to high hazard in their day to-day activity.

Also, in England, we therefore witness the creation of an inexperienced ‘army’ of users and small dealers who service the drug market. This, on the other hand, shows a drive towards more structured and professional operations at the top of the distribution hierarchy. This specific division of labour, and the pat tern of activities which are part of the drugs economy in England, describe a variant of organised crime which is comparable with its Italian counterpart.

The drug business modelled the organisation of crime to the point that patterns of illegal activities in divers contexts are becoming increasingly uniform . Variants of organised crime seem to differ less qualitative than quantitatively. The involvement in the drug business of traditional organised crime in Italy led to dual development. On the one hand, close-knit criminal networks were partly superseded. Members of traditional organised crime who engaged in the drug economy were forced to form alliances and set up partnerships with outsiders, sometimes even with neophytes. On the other hand, the proceeds of the drug business brought an unprecedented amount of finance which indirectly boosted the presence of organised crime in other licit or illicit enterprises. In other words, the loss of traditional traits allowed for the expansion rather than the reduction of its illegal entrepreneurial nature.

Surely, some traditional traits seem still to characterise organised crime in Italy, though these coexist with ‘advanced’ forms of economic activity. These are mainly related to the enormous fire power of the variant of organised crime prevailing in that country. Italian structured groups rely on a true ‘army’, their military force being still one of their crucial features. This is not the case with the organisations operating in England, where the use of firearms is relatively less frequent and not always related to the drug economy The use of firearms in London, for example, usually precedes the involvement of groups in the drug economy. Some robberies are carried out because they permit a sort of preliminary accumulation of funds, which only eventually would be invested into drugs. The use of firearms, in other words, is not an element which distinguishes the variant of organised crime that is prevalent in English cities.

Nevertheless, in both the contexts examined it is possible to sell one’s ‘criminal labour’ in exchange for a wage. In England as well as in Italy, this possibility became larger since the early 1980s, when the partial conversion of previous illegal activities into drug trafficking and distribution started to take place. The drugs economy took on industrial-type features, thus recruiting both skilled and unskilled labour, like any other industry. It is the presence of these diverse figures holding varying degrees of professionalism and skills which should be regarded as a significant hallmark of organised crime.

The development of the drug business in both countries was accompanied, on the one hand, by the partial decline of independent groups and their subjection to more organised structures and, on the other, by the recruitment of a mass of ‘delinquent workers’ devoid of criminal expertise. Many are now pure employees with no decision-making role. In this respect, the analysis of organised crime can no longer focus exclusively on the variable ‘professionalism’. The type of criminal organisation prevailing in the drugs economy displays a dual process whereby professionalism is fostered by non-professional activities and vice versa. If changes occurred in the organisation of crime vis-a-vis the drug phenomenon, these can be described as the disappearance of ‘crime in association’. This form of illegal activity implies that tasks are collectively planned, the proceeds shared and further activities collectively attempted. Organised crime, in turn, entails a vertical structure, a low degree of cooperation among its members, or rather an abstract, ‘Tayloristic’ kind of cooperation among them. Planning and execution are here strictly separated. As we have seen, drug use and distribution contributed to the shaping of parts of the old Italian mafia on the model that I have just described. Groups took shape in England which adopted a similar model. Despite the warring of extravagance that many continue to launch, and contrary to the assumption that Italy and England are not comparable, the comparison between the variants of organised crime prevailing in the two countries led to the discovery of striking analogies.

Vincenzo Ruggiero, Reader in Criminology and Social Studies. Middlesex University, London, UK.

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