Since the early 20th century, the illegal drug trade has received increasing focus throughout the world. However, the use of mind-altering substances predates attempts to prohibit or regulate them. Early control efforts date back to the teachings of Mohammed in the Koran, though wider-scale control efforts did not occur until the 18th century. Since that time, both the production of mind-altering substances and their regulation or prohibition has been commonplace throughout the world. Several illicit markets exist in response to the ongoing demand. Four notable products are cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and synthetically produced, mind-altering substances that are sold predominantly to users in North America and Europe. The production, transportation, and usage of these substances are all impacted by the histories and geographies of the producer, intermediary, and user countries. Shifts in tolerance of certain substances; geopolitical events, such as war; international policy and policing initiatives, such as the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 and improved means of detecting illicit payloads at international boarders; and changes in demand for specific products have all influenced how trafficking routes and the organizations that participate in the drug trade form and adapt. Regardless of these changes, one constant is that no aspect of the drug trade has ever been dominated by a single, monolithic organization; several illicit enterprises have historically come together to form the often supply global chains. In the 2011, the first darknet market, the Silk Road, emerged as a means by which some buyers and sellers could connect, thus potentially reducing the links of the supply chain. Ongoing changes in technology as well as shifts in the regulatory frameworks on controlled substances will impact illicit substances that are sold and how buyers and sellers interact, and will require innovated research strategies to evaluate their evolution.
Luca Giommoni, R.V. Gundur, and Erik Cheekes
The significance of Asia’s rising economy and emergent foreign trade provides a conducive climate for the proliferation of organized crime. A reflexive exploration of organized crime in the Asian context ought to address two interrelated issues. The first relates to the ontological and epistemological effort to delineating Asia as a region that is not simply demarcated from the West, but one that houses diverse socio-political archetypes within itself. This issue of framing nuanced Asian perspectives within a normative Western-centric paradigm is linked to the second issue that is, evaluating the status of criminology as a “theoretical science” whose efficacy lies in its universal applicability. The corpus of existing Asia-centric research has been met with methodological challenges in the form of a reductive western orientalist lens that obscures larger economic and social complexities behind an exoticised “Asian uniqueness.” Organized Crime (OC) in Asia is varied along the contours of geographical, sociological and cultural particularities, as well as the individual colonial legacies of the region’s societies. However, a particular commonality in the form of a symbiosis between syndicated criminals and state actors on either side of the law, the penetration of the underworld into seemingly aboveboard politics, and the consequent blurring of lines between licit and illicit markets has been identified. This is inextricably linked to the pernicious and prevalent problem of corruption and governance in many of the countries in Asia, a problem that has grown parallel to the exponential economic growth the continent has had witnessed since the 1990s. Easy market access and rising consumer demand underline the prominence of drug production and trafficking as well as the global trade in counterfeit goods within Asian OC. The region’s defining feature of housing diversified nations lends itself to a transnationally proliferated and dynamic drug-related crime (DROC) and counterfeit trading syndicates, with different countries producing and trafficking different and newer drugs, and counterfeit goods for varied markets. The global interconnectivity, afforded by the internet through the digitalisation of contemporary OCs, has compounded the problem where access to anonymous borderless markets and cryptocurrency transactions has facilitated the displacement of lucrative drug and counterfeit crimes both spatially and tactically, leading to the circumvention of traditional forms of social control. The lack of collaboration and coordination among the Asian countries in tackling the illicit trade points to an urgent need to develop a more efficacious international legal framework and effective collaborative enforcement modalities to combat OC. One area of concern is how increasingly transnational OC groups and activities have become an important means of financially supporting terrorist operations that continue to proliferate Asia, prompting a rethink of the existing conceptual framework of the crime-terror nexus.
After nearly a hundred years of debate and analysis, the gang concept remains hotly contested within the social sciences. Once thought to be an exclusively American phenomenon, the study of gangs has become increasingly global over the last decade. Countries from every world region have observed the emergence of gangs and gang-like groups. In some places, gangs resemble their American counterparts, while in others they engage not only in petty crime and drug trafficking but in targeted assassinations, corruption of public officials, and racketeering as well. These activities make them less like the delinquent youth groups they were once conceived as and more akin to organized crime. In less stable and violent contexts, gangs have even been incorporated into ethnic militias, rebel groups, and paramilitaries or have taken on a more vigilante ethos by combating violence and providing some semblance of order. The remarkable proliferation of the gang form and the incredible variation in the phenomenon across the globe requires a reassessment of the gang concept. In the limited literature that focuses on the study of gangs cross-nationally, several conceptualizations have been proposed. Some scholars have attempted to separate smaller street gangs from a variety of other related phenomena: prison gangs, drug gangs, and organized crime. They have done so by crafting a more restrictive concept. However, while separating street gangs from other criminal groups may make sense in the American or European context, it applies less well to other parts of the globe where such organizational forms have become thoroughly integrated, thus blurring these traditional conceptual boundaries. At the same time, some scholars have advocated for a conceptual framework that captures the transformative nature of gangs and encompasses any and all types of gangs and gang-like groups. Such an evolutionary framework fails, however, to distinguish between gangs and a huge variety of criminal and political nonstate armed groups that share little in terms of their origins, motivations, or activities. It can be argued that the best conceptualization is a minimal one that incorporates gangs and many gang-like groups but avoids conceptual stretching to include virtually all nonstate armed groups. Ultimately, contemporary scholars of gangs within any national context must be increasingly attentive to the global dimensions of the gang organizational form and the various overlapping and multifaceted relationships they maintain with a variety of other nonstate armed groups.