Organized Crime in North America and the World: A Bibliography

Compiled by Stephen Schneider, June 1998 (Updated July 2012)

Introduction and Table of Contents

Organized crime has a long and notorious history in North America. The antecedent to today’s criminal organization can be traced back centuries to pirates who operated off the Atlantic coast. During the nineteenth century, criminal organizations were formed around bootlegging, smuggling, bank robberies, and cattle rustling. The genesis of “traditional” organized crime is found in the early part of the twentieth century with the Black Hand, the fragmented and brutish bands of extortionists which operated in parts of the United States and Southern Ontario. During the era of prohibition, the profits reaped by supplying a thirsty American market catapulted organized crime to a new level of sophistication, wealth, and power. The increased use of illicit drugs and other illegal (and consensual) products and services have fuelled the proliferation of criminal organizations and illegal markets in the last three decades. Today, organized crime is carried out by a diverse number of groups which have become increasingly transnational and have assumed a critical role in the most profitable criminal activities. Organized crime has become entrenched in many societies throughout the world, and in doing so it has amassed a financial power, a sophistication and an internationalization which dwarfs any previous incarnation.

The containment of organized crime through the criminal justice system remains a significant, and some would argue, an unattainable goal. Public fascination with organized crime has been uninterrupted for decades and it remains a popular media topic. This issue area has also increasingly come under the scrutiny of the academic community. While organized crime remains elusive to define or conceptualize, a growing body of literature, from the popular media, academic research, and police intelligence have contributed to a better understanding of this complex phenomenon.

The structure and contents of this bibliography are guided by a number of principles. In particular this bibliography includes references to literature that:

  • focuses on North America
  • includes scholarly, media, popular non-fiction, as well as police and government sources
  • presents both theory and empirical research, including case studies
  • examines organized crime from the perspective of a number of disciplines, including sociology, criminology, economics, and political science, to name just a few
  • strikes a balance between recent literature and older, seminal publications
  • are from reliable and accurate sources
  • is easily accessible (through web sites, on-line periodicals, libraries, etc.)

The structure of this bibliography aims to provide the reader with a user-friendly and functional guide to the literature. To this end, the bibliography is broken down into a number of sections each of which covers themes that are important for an analysis of organized crime. Each of the parts, many of which are further demarcated by subsections, contain a diverse array of literature which reflects the principles presented above. The major parts of the bibliography are as follows:

  • Part One: Introduction to and Overview of Organized Crime (literature that provides a comprehensive overview of organized crime)
  • Part Two: Scholarly Research, Theories and Conceptual Models and Critical Analysis (scholarly empirical and theoretical publications that have developed and explore definitions, theories, conceptual models and a critical analysis)
  • Part Three: Organized Crime Genres (literature that examines specific organized crime “genres,” emphasizing those that are dominant in North America, subsumed under the following headings: Aboriginal, Albanian, Asian, Italian, Jamaican, Latin American, Jewish, Nigerian/West African, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Russian/Eastern European)
  • Part Four: The Criminal Organization (literature examining the organized criminal enterprise in depth, including such salient issues as structure, processes, membership, recruitment, codes, etc.)
  • Part Five: Organized Criminal Activities (literature that examines the activities associated with organized crime, using the following categories: arms smuggling & trafficking; corruption; counterfeiting (currency and product piracy); cyber-crime, drug trafficking; extortion; fraud, gambling; identity theft, labour racketeering; loan sharking; money laundering; robbery, theft, & hijacking; smuggling & contraband markets; smuggling of & trafficking people; violence)
  • Part Six: Organized Crime and the Private Sector (literature that examines the infiltration of and racketeering in the private sector by organized crime groups)
  • Part Seven: Organized Crime Enforcement (literature on efforts to control organized crime, with a primary focus on enforcement, including intelligence and analysis, asset forfeiture, citizen and community participation, critiques and alternatives to enforcement, drug enforcement, informants, agents and witness protection, international cooperation, investigations, undercover operations, surveillance, joint force operations, law and legislation, prosecution and sentencing)
  • Part Eight: Special Topics in Organized Crime (literature on the convergence of organized crime and terrorism, transnational organized crime, women in organized crime, and researching organized crime).