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Transnational Crime

- August 29, 2014
Is cross-border criminality getting worse?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
  • More...
Featured Report

Instant global communications and open trade routes have been a boon to businesspeople and consumers — as well as to international criminals. “Transnational organized crime” — in U.N. and U.S government parlance — has been expanding over the past two decades, some officials say, threatening to overwhelm the legitimate world economy. Criminals have raced ahead of law enforcement in adapting to globalization and modern technology, experts argue, citing booming ivory and drug smuggling, human trafficking, piracy, cyber-theft and counterfeiting of luxury goods. Others counter that transnational crime is not new but simply a modern form of an old crime — smuggling — and that new technology also enables law enforcement to better track down criminals, even across borders. Both sides agree, however, that modern technology enables hackers, pirates, smugglers and others to inflict widespread damage more quickly than in the past. The intersection between internationally minded criminals and terrorism is another worry, with terrorists turning to crime to finance their operations.

Arresting Russians?

U.S.-Russia tensions have hampered efforts to curb Russian hackers.

Threatened Wildlife

Ivory trafficking threatens African elephants.

1790–1912United States creates Navy to fight piracy and extortion in North Africa. Transnational crime appears early in U.S. history as intellectual-property theft.
1920–1933Alcohol prohibition spurs birth of major liquor smuggling and trafficking industry.
1971–1988U.S. sparks war on drugs, crackdown on money laundering.
1991-PresentSoviet Union's collapse and rise of Asian manufacturing spur global trade boom, soon to be facilitated by international digital interconnectedness.

Is the transnational organized crime threat exaggerated?


Peter Andreas
Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Brown University.


Louise I. Shelley
Director, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, George Mason University.
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