The old adage suggests that crime doesn’t pay, but if a recent United Nations report is to be believed, crime generates roughly $2.1 trillion across the world in an average year, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.
According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), global crime accounts for almost 4 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and officials expect these criminal statistics to continue to inflate in the next few years.
In the words of Yury Fedotov, the leader of UNODC, these figures reveal that “criminal business” is “one of the top 20 economies” in the world, which is a serious threat to the security and economic development of the global community.
Two major areas of criminal concern are human trafficking and corruption. The UNODC report estimated that up to $40 billion is lost each year to corruption in developing countries and that more than $32 billion in illegal income is derived from human trafficking each year.
Shockingly, according to Fedotov, “[a]ccording to some estimates, at any one time, 2.4 million people suffer from the misery of human trafficking, a shameful crime of modern day slavery.”
In addition to corruption and human trafficking, sources say that other major criminal enterprises include organized crime syndicates, which can be difficult to bring criminal charges against because they often operate across national borders in shrouds of secrecy.
And, more disturbingly criminal enterprises have displayed an “impressive adaptability” to international law enforcement efforts and are constantly discovering new sources of revenue.
International crime, especially that which occurs across state borders, often poses severe logistical challenges for law enforcement agencies, since criminal justice has traditional been meted out at the national, not international, scale.
The International Criminal Court has tried to fill this void, but the transnational body spends most of its time prosecuting war criminals and other figures who commit large, violent crimes on a broad scale, not organized crime groups or corrupt officials.
And Fedotov fears that international crime may be spreading, although he admits that to corroborate this belief he needs to collect and analyze more data.
In the meantime, international police will have to improve at tracking and apprehending members of criminal organizations that “bear no resemblance to the hierarchical organized crime family groups of the past.”
If law enforcement officials aren’t able to adapt to the changing nature of international crime, then organized crime may continue to act as a serious drain on the global economy.