Criminal Justice (CRJS) 492

Criminal Organizations (Revision 2)

CRJS 492

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online or grouped study

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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CRJS 492 - Criminal Organizations provides a comprehensive overview relevant to Organized Crime which is a dynamic, ever-changing social phenomenon. Much debate exists regarding what it is, how it should be defined, and which social policies are best to control it. The purpose of this course will be to introduce students to organized crime around the world by demystifying the world of organized crime, by analyzing it closely and critically from a social perspective. Groups such as Street Gangs and Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, as well as Latino, Asian and Russian criminal groups will be examined. The student will examine the structure and activities of organized criminal enterprises, consider different models that have been employed to describe organized crime groups, and explore theories that have been advanced to explain the phenomenon. Major investigations of organized crime and legal strategies that have been developed to combat it are also considered. This will enable students to be exposed to what is known about organized crime, which can make a tangible difference in developing a frame work for understanding and addressing it, because organized crime is growing in importance as the world economy expands, and is shadowed by a criminal economy.


Criminal Justice 492: Criminal Organizations comprises the following eleven units which can be organized into three sections:

Section 1: Units 1 to 3

Section 1 focuses on how academics and law enforcement agencies attempt to define organized groups from their particular viewpoints. It discusses the difficulties in arriving at a common definition that is useful to everyone. Section 1 presents the theories that address the question of why people and groups engage in criminal behaviour.

Unit 1: Attempting to Define Organized Crime

Unit 2: Explaining Organized Crime

Unit 3: The History of Organized Crime

Section 2: Units 4 to 10

Section 2 outlines a number of criminal organizations in operation today. The goal is to understand these groups better and to gain deeper insights into the primary activities in which they are engaged.

Unit 4: Street Gangs

Unit 5: Italian Organized Crime

Unit 6: Latino Organized Crime

Unit 7: Eastern European and Russian Organized Crime

Unit 8: Asian Organized Crime

Unit 9: Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs

Unit 10-A: OC Enterprises: Human Trafficking and Smuggling

Unit 10-B: OC Enterprises: Money Laundering

Unit 10-C: OC Enterprises: The Drug Trade

Section 3: Unit 11

Section 3, which consists of Unit 11, describes how communities are responding to and dealing with these criminal organizations.

Unit 11: Response to Organized Crime


Your final grade in Criminal Justice 492: Criminal Organizations will be based on the grades you achieve on three written assignments and a final exam. To receive credit for the course, you must achieve a mark of at least 50% on each submitted assignment for credit and on the final exam. You must complete the course with an overall course grade of at least “D” 50 per cent.

Your mark on each credit assignment and the final exam will be based on the following criteria. Keep these in mind as you prepare each assignment:

  • clarity and depth of your arguments
  • demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the subject matter
  • ability to articulate and present your thoughts

The following table summarizes the assignments for credit, their weighting toward your final grade, and the date at which they are due according to the study schedule provided in this course.

Assignment for Credit Weighting Description
Assignment 1 10% Refer to the Assignments for Credit section for more detailed information.
Assignment 2 20% Refer to the Assignments for Credit section for more detailed information.
Assignment 3 20% Refer to the Assignments for Credit section for more detailed information.
Assignment 4 50% The final exam is a combination of short-answer and essay questions.
Total 100%  

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials

The course materials for Criminal Justice 492: Criminal Organizations are mostly found on the course website.


Abadinsky, H. (2010). Organized crime (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Additional assigned readings for this course are contained in the Digital Reading Room, (DRR) or through a print reading file. You will be directed to these readings at the appropriate points in the course.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, February 10, 2010.

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