Critical Thinking

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The ambiguous notion of ‘Victimhood’ in organised crime is difficult to locate within both organisations and individuals with the former having different political, social-economic agendas and the latter it are subjected to the nature of the person who is the victim. This could be either low levels such as petty theft or high-level crime such as human trafficking. The Governmental organisation, the National Crime Agency in 2014 decipher that a victim of Organised crime is defined as someone who is physically injured, killed or suffered psychological trauma through a direct consequence of criminal activity such as sexual abuse and shooting in gangs. Alternatively, indirectly such as through drug use or stress from criminal activity. Further to this, a victim of an organised crime may also be defined as not having a direct effect on an individual’s physical or mental wellbeing, such as loss of money, assets such as reputation, national security and economic impact. For example in the US, the World Bank estimates that each year spending to bribe public officials, costs $1 trillion causing multiple economic problems and damage to legitimate economic activity. (US Embassy 2011) Organised crime also manifests in individuals and business, which in turn has consequences for communities and societies by reducing the quality of life, social cohesion and lead to rise in crime levels. (National Crime Agency, 2014, p10)  For example, the Police Foundation (2016) in a study of local communities found that Organised crime groups had the most significant impact on neighbourhoods relating to the high degree of social control they exerted. Nonetheless, in itself organised crime is also difficult to decipher. As Rensselaer argues that ”Organised crime itself is an elusive phenomenon (1991, p1), is worth noting, as may refer to both official Organised crime organisations such as the ‘Mafia’ (Hagan, 2006)  or simply crime which happens to be organised, such as human smuggling (Chin 1998). Thus both Organised crime and its victims are ambiguous in its nature, a theme throughout this essay. When considering victims of organised crime, they can come from all spheres, for example, through drug trafficking and illegal gambling. This essay will discuss comparisons with more recent increases in human trafficking and smuggling, with the idea of consent of the victim, if they consent to be smuggled and if violence isn’t involved, which is a large element of organised crime, their victim status may be questioned. It will also discuss the less well-reported tobacco smuggling marketplace and the rise of cyber- crime victims, all these whom the FBI state are ” keystones within TOC (Transnational organised crime) enterprises” (FBI 2017*) Human Trafficking is defined by the UN in 2003 as ”the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labour or sexual exploitation.”(National Institute of Justice, 2017) Surtees (2008) in her research on South Eastern Europe (SEE) trafficking defines ‘victim’ as someone who experiences injustice where the perpetrator is responsible. (Billings et al. 2005) It is also used to highlight ”rights of victims of trafficking to assistance and protection from their governments” (p41) rather than to imply powerlessness of the victim once they have been trafficked. Human Trafficking is labelled the “most prevalent” types of organised crime activities in the EU by Europol. It is therefore likely to have a high number of victims, with the EU from 2008 to 2010 reported 23,632 identified or presumed victims of human trafficking in the reporting member states (Eurostat, European Commission, 2013). Human Trafficking is characterised by ”Exploitation and multiple dependencies (Aronowitz, 2001 p 76). Often Sexual exploitation, in particular, being the most prevalent. As Allum (2012) argues that Trafficking of persons in Europe for sexual exploitation was estimated to have 70,000 victims, with this being a stable trend.  Surtees 2005 found that in South Eastern Europe (SEE) victims are increasingly being trafficked within their home countries. Although victims are trafficked for various forms of exploitation, approximately 85 percent of assisted victims in SEE in 2003 and 2004 were women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. This data and literature suggest the clear extensive number of victims of Human Trafficking, as a dominant market in organised crime globally, thus maybe making it difficult to question if victimhood is ambiguous here. Despite the fact, In EU figures, often they include ‘Presumed victims’ who have declined to be defined as a victim of trafficking or not being able to be formally identified by authorities. (Eurostat, European Commission, 2013, p. 20). As Kelly (2002) argues that victims may have only partial information about trafficking operation and not always willing to disclose details of their traffickers and experiences due to being highly traumatised. There are, therefore, a large number of these victims who go unreported, perhaps out of fear of being labelled a criminal themselves or not having protection against the persecutor. Thus according to the Home Offices’ crime recording regulations (2017), a ‘No victim no crime’ stance would often be taken, as without a victim or someone acting on behalf of a victim, hence a case of trafficking would only be recorded as a crime related incident, highlighting the ambiguity in identifying victims of Human Trafficking. However more has been done to tackle this issue, with the Modern Slavery Act being introduced in 2015,  which has allowed ”victims extra protection against prosecutions for offences committed as part of their exploitation and provides slavery victims access to civil legal aid.”(BBC News 2015)  Between April to June 2017 there were 1200 potential victims of trafficking reported to the police (NVM 2017) whether all of these victims will come forward or a case is brought against their traffickers is a different matter. As well as Government intervention, the Modern Slavery Act has received support from Non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International (2016) to make sure businesses are checking their global supply chains for signs of trafficking, making it easier to identify these victims and making them less ambiguous. However, the Government has been criticised for the failure to tackle modern slavery and to protect its victims, for example in Thames Valley police figures for modern slavery suggest they were five times higher than expected for 2017(BBC News)This makes it more difficult to identify victims, thus again questioning the ambiguity of victimhood, criticism being that the government is not doing enough to tackle the issue to locate them. Another Organised crime marketplace which could question the nature of its victims is Human smuggling, which the UN defines as generally involving the consent of the person(s) being smuggled (National Institute of Justice, 2017). For example, International borders are crossed for large amounts of money by the victims and once arrive are often left to own devices. (U.S Department of State, 2005). However, ‘Smuggling becomes trafficking when an element of force or coercion is introduced.'(National Institute of Justice, 2017). Allum (2012) found that the smuggling of migrants is estimated a million victims with a 66 billion income for smugglers, although it was seen as a declining trend. However, since 2012, there is likely to be an increase in the number of victims, due to war-torn areas such as Syria there has been mass migration and often the only way for people to escape is to be exploited by smugglers. Further to this, lies the debate with human trafficking and smuggling around consent. With Human Smuggling, they may choose to be smuggled, thus giving their consent and may not become a victim. However, they may make a choice but may have no alternative, as they risk persecution or even death if they stay in their country of origin. A particularly potent example of this is the Syrian Refugee Crisis, with approximately 5.4 million Citizens having left Syria since the War began in 2011 (UNHCR 2017).  With more than a million refugees arriving in 2015 in Europe, they are often exploited by smugglers and traffickers, with more than 75% of the 1,600 14- to 17-year-olds who arrived in Italy reported being held against their will or forced to work.” (Guardian 2017) This is just one piece of evidence that highlights both the increase in smuggling today but also the obscure nature of the difference between Smuggling and Trafficking. This illustrates that for example victims may decide to legally migrate but end up coerced and exploited, thus becoming trafficked (Surtees 2008). As they may have chosen to be smuggled but not realised that they would be forced into labour once they arrived at their destination.  However, it is also ambiguous as Surtees (2008) argues that in smuggling migrants may not be deceived and subjected to trafficking-like conditions, and be a positive experience – separating the two. Nonetheless, due to the blurred distinction of human trafficking and smuggling, in regards to victims this leads to ambiguities due the consenting to the organised crime taking place. In the context of organised crime, Refugee smuggling as an illicit marketplace of its own producing $26 billion globally. Smugglers charge approximately 3,000 dollars a person to reach Europe from Syria. (Al Jazeera 2015). With such a large demand for these illicit marketplaces through for both socio-political and economic reasons, this highlights further the moral ambivalence of this marketplace, as due to the demand of smuggling services due to war in this context,  in turn it makes large profits for smugglers themselves through supplying the service, also the victims may not have any other choice than to be smuggled out of war torn areas, so may view them in positive light, rather than as criminals, therefore highlighting several ambiguities. Another area of ambiguity is the government as victims of Tobacco smuggling through the loss of taxation of cigarettes, with the estimated global illicit market share at approximately 11.6% (Joossens et al. 2009). With Governments losing approximately £13.9 billion in revenue between, 2010 -2015 (Taxpayers’ Alliance, 2016). Hornsby & Hobbs (2006) argue that ” this illicit trade has received increasing political and law enforcement attention, due largely to the substantial loss of revenue.” (p552)  With the loss of revenue, this, in turn, has implications of less taxation income leading to less spent on public services such as the NHS. Hence it could be inferred that with less income from tax, less would be spent on the public, therefore the whole population being victims of tobacco smuggling. Although this would be an extreme effect of tobacco smuggling, as taxation of tobacco brings in approximately £12 billion in direct tax revenues (Fullfact.org). Whereas, Income tax brings in around £185bn (Inman 2017). Tobacco smuggling may not, therefore be the government’s priority as the Home Affairs Committee report in 2014 highlighted that improvements should be made to tackle tobacco smuggling as up till then the numbers of arrests, prosecutions and convictions for organised crime cases involving tobacco have all fallen and only one letter of warning was set to tobacco manufactures by HMRC to control their supply chain. Another agent in the form of Tobacco companies producing the cigarettes legally themselves, use concerns about smuggling, and the resulting lost tax revenue, to exert political pressure on the government to lower tobacco taxes” (Wiltshire et al 2001). Therefore tobacco companies themselves perhaps exploit this loss in revenue for their own gain. This is clearly a complex multifaceted argument for governments as victims of tobacco smuggling, reinforcing the ambiguity of victimhood in the context of organised crime. With the Government not being the clear cut victims of Tobacco smuggling, this is why it is often seen as a ‘victimless crime’  as suggested by literature and figures, offenders often having a ‘Moral absent mindedness’ (p 432) and rationalise their part in the illicit marketplace so they feel they are not doing any moral wrongdoing (Van Duyne 1996). Antonopoulos and Winterdyk (2009) argue that the offenders often display ”techniques of neutralisation” (Sykes and Matza 1957) by ”showing implicit signs of denying the victim, denying injury, denying responsibility and condemning the condemners”.(p123) Therefore clearing themselves as victims as well as those actors affected by the smuggling marketplace. Compared to other illicit marketplaces in organised crime such as drug marketplaces, drug users are illegal and are less normalised in society. Contrasting with the tobacco market, smoking is more of a normative feature of society and the consumption of it is legal, often individuals just getting it at a cheaper price than what they would normally pay. Thus it is more obvious who the victims of drug smuggling are and the effects it has compared to tobacco, with fewer tangible victims.However it could be put forward that the perception of smoking has changed in the past 20 years to more of a deviant one, with measures such as banning smoking in public spaces (Health Act 2006) and advertising the health effects and subsequent government crackdown (Department of Health 2008), with a response based on health concerns rather than the criminal act of smuggling. (L’Hoiry, 2012, p434)’. Therefore with this crack down, tobacco smuggling is becoming as stigmatised and as high on the policy agenda as drug trafficking is, allowing more victims to be identified, suggesting less ambiguity in regards to tobacco smuggling. Moreover, individuals may use their source of cigarettes through tobacco smuggling because themselves they are victims of social deprivation. Supported by Wiltshire et al (2001) who interviewed smokers in socially deprived areas of Edinburgh. They accessed cigarettes often through Social networks, which often in organised crime are key, as relationships often form the common denominator of organised crime (Van Duyne, 1996). Wiltshire found that the majority expressed dissatisfaction with legal tobacco products, as ”there was a strong feeling that the government was exploiting poorer people through regressive tobacco taxation”. (p.206) Therefore often turning to smuggled products instead. One man summarised the positive attitude to smuggling held by many respondents: “to me, they’re doing you a favour . . . They’re doing people a service.”  (p 214). This further reinforces the idea of moral ambivalence as on one hand, organised crime is seen as morally bad such as those in the illegal activities involved in tobacco smuggling, on another they are providing a service which is beneficial to a community, due to their socio-economic situation cheap cigarettes are seen as a positive light, whether they have been smuggled or not.  Further reinforcing the ambiguity of victimhood and organised crime as a whole. Furthermore, compared to other illicit marketplaces such as trafficking and drugs, tobacco smuggling is also less likely to have victims of violence or the threat of it (L’Hoiry 2012). Van Dijck (2009) argues that criminals in group violence is ‘virtually non-existent’ in context of cigarette smoking (2002, p176). It is often rare due to the attention it may get which may lead to illicit activities being compromised. For example, Antonopoulos (2009) argues that it is rare because it rarely attracts unwanted attention from law enforcement, which can be seen in Germany where escalating violence occurred, linked to illicit tobacco markets in Berlin which caused the aggressive law enforcement action to be taken. (L’Hoiry, 2012)  Also, the threat of violence to victims is less.  Vander Beken et al (2008) further support this claim of the rarity, ‘of course there are situations in which threats are expressed’. (2008, p182) When threats were used it was used to secure status within social groups such as ‘Gary’ in his tobacco smuggling business, used a ‘phantom’  threat of violence (L’Hoiry 2013,p432) to allow his smuggling trade to run smoothly.In other illicit marketplaces, victims of violence are more prominent and clear-cut. In drug trafficking for example threats of violence were often used (Colombié et al., 1999). With Fijnaut, 1991, finding that in  Northern Europe in upper-level drug trafficking organisation there was  ”.. No question of the use of systematic corruption and violence against “outsiders” to build up a position of power..”  (pp 21-22). Although like tobaccos illicit marketplace, it also uses violence as a ‘reputational asset ‘(Arlacchi, 1986, 1988; Dorn et al., 1988). Within this marketplace, arguably the attention of law enforcement is more prominent with the problematic agenda on ‘War on drugs’ (Aspe and Shultz,2017) and from the offender, it is seen as ‘bad for business’. (Pearson and Hobbs, 2001, p 56).In terms of trafficking and its victims, violence is also prominent as Surtees (2008) found that in South-eastern Europe ”Traffickers inflicted extensive violence on victims, including regular beatings, sexual violence and psychological coercion, such as threats against the victim or her family. ” (p55) in Moldova in 2004 82.2% victims of traffickers experienced some form of abuse, (Surtees 2005). Hence, violence and abuse play a large role in the illicit marketplace of trafficking and drug markets within organised crime, but perhaps only the threat of it in tobacco smuggling. That is why it is so important to highlight the importance of violence when investigating the ambiguous nature of victimhood in organised crime. As often violence is largely associated with organised crime (Gounev, 2012) and crime in general. However in illicit marketplaces use of violence on victims is not straightforward as it is often used as a threat to secure power in hierarchies rather than to kill adversaries. In this modern age, there is another organised crime which does not involve violence but it still takes a large number of victims. For example the rise of Cybercrime, with the UNODC in 2010 reporting that 1.5 million people a year experience identity theft which accumulates at an economic loss of 1 billion US dollars, and is  ‘endangering the security of nations’. The UN has increased the importance of cybercrime such as advance fee scams and e-commerce fraud. In the UK, the National Cyber Crime Unit  (NCCU) was established in 2013 along with the New National Crime Agency, to for example, ”pursue cyber criminals at a national and international level and also working proactively to target criminal vulnerabilities and prevent criminal opportunities.”  As even the ONS statistics found that you are 20 times more likely to be robbed while at your computer by a criminal based overseas than held up in the street. Hence more has been done on both national and local level to try to tackle cybercrime, which also have victims, but may also be ambiguous as are difficult to identify. Although an increasing issue of cybercrime, organised crime groups still receive the largest economic gain from other illicit marketplaces such as in the US, with organised crime groups making $34 billion annually on cocaine sales (Organization of American States) compared to loss of money of Americans from identity theft was $20 billion (Javelin Strategy and Research 2013) Therefore still the greatest emphasis is on victims of trafficking, through drugs or human exploitation. On a policy front, since the UN Convention against Transnational Organised crime was adopted by over 120 member states in 2000, more has been done to empower victims of organised crime ‘The Convention and its protocol will give a new global impetus to criminal justice reform on behalf of victims.” (p.17) Van Dijk (2002) argues that its main focus is on cases of ‘victimless crime’ such as trafficking of drugs and illegal goods. With members now having obligation to introduce elaborate victim-related provisions in their domestic laws and practices” (p17) thus leading to a global organisation taking key action for the rights of victims of organised crime. However, Van Dijk (2002) also criticises this policy as it only protects from countries within a territory, not the destination they are going to and leaves a lack protection for families left behind in the country of origin. Also if temporary or limited protection is offered, victims are then unlikely to testify against traffickers, meaning less victims of trafficking are less easily identified and the nature of victims more ambiguous. Also lacking on rights such as right to be informed, victims may not understand or know about local rules and procedures such as in cybercrime without notification they have been a victim, so they may be unable to claim victim status in trials. This further highlights the issue of victims reporting and also the rising issue of Cybercrime, although in the last two decades more has been done to try and improve the ambiguities of victims of organised crime. Also, in the Convention, ambiguities arise in relation to the Human Right to be treated with compassion or respect. This has little mention as well as victim assistance such as legal support for when they come forward. The convention highlights this could largely affect victims of prostitution, as these victims are more likely to be stigmatised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland in 2011 finding victims were treated as criminals and illegal immigrants. This could perhaps also be reflected on a local level, as evidence suggests that in the UK, the Police Foundation (2016) criticised law enforcement for not doing enough to protect sex workers who were exploited by organised criminals, leaving them isolated and vulnerable, with the Home Office Science Research Report 73 (2013) finding that Human trafficking for sexual exploitation, is estimated to cost the UK at least £890 million each year. All of the evidence accumulates to reinforce that victims of trafficking would be less likely to come forward and declare victim status, thus making it more complex in understanding the full picture of organised crime. Although this UN declaration has been ‘heralded as a landmark for the international victim’s movement’ (p23) (Waller, 1988; Separovic, 2001). Therefore more is being done to tackle the victims of organised crime in various illicit marketplaces from Trafficking to Cyber Crime, despite multiple criticisms on a global and local scale. In Conclusion, evidence strongly implies the ambiguous notion of victimhood, through matters of consent, violence, socio-economic standing and through the Illicit marketplaces which they occur in. There are the clearly obvious victims of organised crime such as those of human and drug trafficking, and the more ambiguous victims of human smuggling and perhaps non-existent victims of tobacco smuggling. This has also suggested a moral ambivalence, as victims of organised crime may be aware they are victims and know it is illegal, however it may have a positive impact on them, through for example, escaping from war by being smuggled out of the country, or through buying cheaper cigarettes which have been illegally smuggled. It could be argued that perhaps we are all victims of organised crime, as in illicit marketplaces the profits gained will have some effect on revenue such as taxation for public services and healthcare. Although there is a strong demand for these services and therefore where there is a supply which is facilitated by organised crime groups, it is a Government’s, Law enforcement’s (police) and other organisation’s duty to reduce this demand so there is little need for illicit marketplaces to create supply for illegal gains.

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