Karlsruhe Dialogues 2010

Organized Crime - Dark Sides of Globalization

Prof. Dr. Klaus von Lampe



von lampe

Prof. Dr. Klaus von Lampe is assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. After earning degrees in law and political science at the Free University of Berlin he started working as an attorney. He spent some time as a Research Fellow at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers State University of New Jersey in Newark. He then earned a doctorate (Dr. jur.) at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main with a thesis titled “Organized crime: concept and theory of organized crime in the USA”. Furthermore, he was a research associate at the faculty of law and the faculty of mathematics and computer sciences of the Free University of Berlin. His interest in organized crime dates back to the criminal-political discussion in Germany in the early 1990s regarding new methods of investigation. Today his teachings focus on international criminal justice and criminological theory. Von Lampe’s main research interests are the challenges of strategic crime analysis and empirical manifestations of organized crime, namely cigarette smuggling and drug trafficking, and the underworld power structures. Von Lampe is also author, co-author and co-editor of numerous scientific publications about criminological and political science topics. Furthermore, he is chief editor of the journal “Trends in Organized Crime” and associate editor of the journal “Crime, Law and Social Change”.


ZAK asked Prof. Dr. Klaus von Lampe to answer the following question:

Globalization makes it possible that organized crime expands. What can be done against it at the local level?

"“Globalization?” “Organized crime?” It is virtually impossible to provide a sensible answer to a question that has those two unclear and ambivalent terms packed into it. Maybe it would be better to first talk about the presumed assumptions that form the basis of that question. “Globalization” is often equated with abetting crime and hindering criminal prosecution. In my opinion, this is a culturally pessimistic distortion of reality. Conditions for committing crimes and fighting them are changing in some ways, but not only in one direction or the other. In particular, it seems to be the prevalent perception that crime on a global scale took place in a kind of metaphysic sphere, without touching ground at all. Most criminals, though, have a home; they follow daily routines and depend on local infrastructure. Transnational crime is more of a network of such locally based offenders than global operations of mobile offenders or offender groups. There are two exceptions, though. First of all, there are the “travelling lawbreakers,” which, by the way, is a term that has been around long before the word “globalization” came into vogue. These criminals, e.g. serial burglars or pickpockets, operate from a base in one country and commit their crimes in other countries. It is a different challenge to fight these criminals than to combat locally operating ones. International police cooperation, which is constantly improving in the wake of “globalization,” is a huge help here. But, in the end, these crimes are always committed locally. Consequently, they also have to be fought locally with the means of criminal prosecution and crime prevention. The second exception to the local roots of offenders are certain variations of cybercrime, e.g. in the areas of video and software piracy or the distribution of child pornography. We are dealing here with criminal networks that have sometimes formed in cyberspace, and whose members oftentimes first meet face to face in the courtroom. This is an entirely new phenomenon. Of course, these criminals also don't sit floating at their computers. Nevertheless, counter-strategies will have to be primarily launched in cyberspace. And what about the different “Mafias” undermining, or conquering, Germany? In the case of territorially rooted groupings that are closely connected with politics and the economy, they cannot easily be transplanted here. Criminals and criminal groups, who in most instances came to other countries via the general migration movements, always had to adapt to local conditions in the end. It depends on how much these conditions facilitate crime, with or without Mafia. At any rate, well-equipped prosecution authorities, transparent administration, attentive and critical media, and a strong civil society are of great importance, especially at the local level, and especially in times of “globalization.”"