Important survival mechanism in organised crime (7 factors)


Survival mechanisms (permanent immunity )

Five factors appear to be important in this context: structural organisation and role performance, public tolerance, code of conduct, nature of criminal law, and immunity measures.

Structural organisation and maintenance of secrecy by indulging in specula-legitimate activities and code of conduct have already been analysed in the preceding pages. Here we will focus on permanent immunity and public tolerance.


The survival of the organised crime depends upon ‘the fix’. To put the ‘fix in’ and maintain important connections with those in government and law, organised crime groups typically have one or more members assigned to corrupt officials to maintain good relations with them. These members may be called ‘corrupters’.

The corrupter may be found anywhere in the organisational hierarchy. His job is to bribe, buy, intimidate, negotiate and persuade policemen, public officials, politicians, judges, businessmen and anyone else who might help the organised crime group members to maintain immunity from arrest, prosecution and punishment. Cressey (op. cit., 248) has called this (political) objective the ‘nullification of government’.

According to him, this is sought at two levels: (a) At the lower level are the agencies for law enforcement and the administration of justice, i.e., a policeman, a prosecutor, a magistrate, or a license administrator.

By giving bribes to these people, ‘corrupter’ in the organised gang/racket/syndicate ‘nullifies’ the law-enforcement process, (b) At the upper level are legislative agencies central and state legislatures as well as municipal corporations.


When a gang-boss supports a candidate for political office, he does so in an attempt to deprive honest citizens of their democratic voice, thus ‘nullifying’ the democratic process. As such, nullifying law-enforcement officers and legislators is ‘nullification of government’, which acts as an important survival mechanism in organised crime.

It could be said that permanent immunity is achieved by organised crime groups in several ways:

1. The leaders of organised crime are not usually arrested and prosecuted because they stay behind the scenes of operation.

2. Persons lower in the hierarchy, if arrested, are likely to be released by action taken by their superiors. Such release and avoidance of prosecution are assured through what is popularly known as the ‘fix’.


Persons (like policemen, judges, politicians, doctors, businessmen) not directly involved in criminal activity contribute, for various reasons, to the protection of organised criminals.

3. Protection is secured by gaining political power through contributions to political parties and political organisations, particularly for contesting elections, and ‘purchasing’ the support of members of the opposition parties. Many elected politicians thus owe their election to organised criminals.

4. Regular ‘pay-offs’ to law-enforcement officials also provide protection.

5. A certain amount of immunity results from public toleration of organised crime, since it provides the public with illicit and desired services, such as alcohol, narcotics, call-girls, etc.


6. Immunity is also provided by the functioning of law itself. Sometimes there are such loopholes in the laws that lawyers manage to save their clients (criminals) from legal action. Lack of effective legislation and weak law enforcement are a reflection of official toleration of organised crime.

7. Organised crime is able to evade law through infiltration in legitimate business. Sometimes organised crime and legitimate business may even mutually assist each other. George Void (1958: 237) has commented that the interdependence of the underworld of crime and the underworld of business assures the maintenance of both systems.

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