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NCJ Number: 201859 Find in a Library
Title: Declining Significance of Triad Societies in Transnational Illegal Activities: A Structural Deficiency Perspective
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:3  Dated:Summer 2003  Pages:469-488
Author(s): Sheldon Zhang; Ko-Lin Chin
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 20
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: Years of field observations and empirical data collection have found that a different breed of organized Chinese criminals has become involved in transnational criminal activities; these organized Chinese criminals are not affiliated with triad societies or any other traditional Chinese organized crime groups.
Abstract: Following a clarification of the main categories of traditional Chinese crime groups and their organizational characteristics, this article examines two major transnational criminal activities (human smuggling and heroin trafficking) that have been dominated by enterprising (free-lance) individuals without any formal connection with traditional Chinese crime syndicates. Patterns of organization among these human smugglers and heroin traffickers that distinguish them from their traditional counterparts are then examined. The data on which this article is based were obtained from five studies conducted between 1984 and 2001. One study explored Chinese tongs and street gangs in the United States in 1984-87; a second study, conducted between 1989 and 1992, examined street gang activities in New York City's Chinatown; the third study, conducted in 1993-96, researched the influx of smuggled Chinese into the United States; the fourth study is an ongoing project that is focusing on the history, culture, and political economy of the Wa area of the Golden Triangle and the factors that have contributed to its becoming a major opium-growing area; and the fifth study explored Chinese alien smuggling organizations. The research has found little evidence to support the widespread belief that Chinese gangs were behind the dramatic upsurge in narcotics trafficking in the 1980's. Also, empirical findings of the studies in the past few years indicate that human smuggling is not a primary activity of "organized crime" as this term has most commonly been defined in criminological literature; rather, it is "crime that is organized." Although members of triads, tongs, and Chinese gangs are involved in trafficking in illegal Chinese immigrants to a certain extent, their participation in this enterprise is not organized through, sanctioned by, or even known to their respective organizations. The human trafficking business is controlled by enterprising individuals who are working independently or in groups. These groups have their own connections and smuggling methods and routes. This article proposes a "structural deficiency perspective" to explain how the time-tested patterns of traditional triad organizations are ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the newly emerging transnational criminal opportunities. The authors argue that human smuggling and heroin trafficking are vastly different from traditional racketeering activities in the Chinese community, such as extortion, gambling, loan sharking, and prostitution. The Hong Kong-based triads or Taiwan-based organized crime groups have historically focused on a different set of organizational priorities that have emphasized infiltration and control of legitimate businesses over sustained periods of time, as well as the operation of various illicit activities and markets. 1 figure and 61 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Asian gangs; Drug smuggling; Organized crime; Trafficking in Persons; Transnational Organized Crime
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