Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crime 101 - Follow The Money

This week on Crime 101 I'm not going to talk about a particular kind of crime. Instead I want to talk about one of the best ways to try and track, understand, stop, or at least figure out what is going on with professional crime. The answer is simple, hell, it is right up there in the topic, but why does it work? Read on, and we'll discuss it.

Professional Crime is a Business
Now, I've said this before, but you'd be amazed how often something can be repeated before people get a hang of it. Hell, one of the classes I'm taking this semester is 'Corporate Crime' and some of the students in that class are having problems understanding that Crime can work just like any other business. However, this is the key fact that you need to understand. Professional crime is a business, it exists to make money, it is structured to make money, and if it doesn't make money then it fails.

This is what makes the difference between a Professional and an Amateur criminal. The Professional, this is their way of life. What they do, it isn't personal (ok, sometimes it is personal, but usually it isn't.) Responses they make to threats are measured responses to what they are facing. How they respond is basically how they play ball. The top level guy of an international criminal syndicate is very similar to the top level guy of a Fortune 500 International corporation; the wares, services, and profit margins are just a little different.

Everyone Needs Cash
Karl Marx had a view for a better world. A world where everyone puts in their fair share, everyone splits up and rotates through the crap and good jobs equally. Where everyone carries some of the load, so that everyone has more time to relax, and pursue their individual talents and artistic desires. It was an idea that, if it was pulled off, could probably usher in a golden age for humanity. The idea is called communism, and among its very many problems is the fact that it only works in theory. Mankind isn't set up to share and be kind to each other. Mankind, intrinsically, has something dark and vicious about it. This is why Checks and Balances were put into the U.S. constitution, the founding fathers flat out said that man is not inherently angelic, but closer to being infernal. (Coincidentally, this is also why I am saddened every time politicians make moves under the view that man is inherently good, like our founding fathers believed).

Man is lazy. Sorry if that is insulting, but just look at how we act. Sure, some of us are hard workers. But what is the goal of our work? To be able to relax later. to have the means to enjoy what we have elsewhere. All else being equal, a person will take the easier path. Hell, even with all else not being equal, people will take the easier path.

More to the direct point, everyone needs cash. Ok, maybe not everyone. Some people can self sustain without it, but by and large the vast majority of people need money. Need it to eat, to have a roof over their head, to care for their families. It is why crime goes up as job rates go down. It is also how the professional criminal can get his hooks into you. You need cash, they have cash, and all they need in return is a few small favors. That sounds reasonable right?

Following the Cash
About the only proof I need to show that following the cash can help solve, stop, and/or understand crime is the amount of effort that goes into hiding it. There is an entire criminal enterprise that is based solely on hiding the cash. Multiple in fact, if you count things like Laundering and Banking as different enterprises for criminals. There is also the obfuscation factor, large criminal enterprises will own legitimate businesses through people with clean records. That clean money helps hide all the dirty money, it explains the cars, the clothes, the homes while keeping money free for the rest.

So, just keep in mind if you're looking for figuring out who actually committed a crime, or why. Where is the money going? (this is also why cops question the beneficiaries of life insurance packages. couple hundred thousand dollars is a hell of a motive).


  1. You know you could have saved your self the money and just rented/bought the complete 5 seasons of the HBO drama, The Wire, and gotten a REAL understanding of Crime 101 and the business of crime.

  2. Thanks Louis, if you read the first post on Crime 101 you'll see I do specifically mention the Wire as a great resource for this. I've only seen the first couple of seasons, but it is a very good show that does show a lot of these elements in action.