The National Institute of Justice's portfolio of research on transnational organized crime (TOC) dates back to 1998. Since then, NIJ has funded 25 projects in four focus areas: the measurement and assessment of TOC, risk assessment and its use in targeting counter-TOC programs, the deconstruction of TOC groups and their illicit operations, and the prevention of TOC. The portfolio has produced vital information for practitioners and stakeholders in this field, including:
- A 2003 survey of state and local law enforcement officials that pinpointed perceptions of the threat from TOC and the most significant challenges for addressing TOC at the local level.
- A 2003 project that developed a TOC risk assessment tool that law enforcement officials can employ to improve their targeting of TOC.
- A 2004 survey of practitioners in six Asian countries that found, among other things, that TOC groups in these countries were highly specialized and only collaborated when smuggling goods or people through or outside the region.
- A 2005 study that detailed the links between TOC and terrorism and included an indicators and warning model that law enforcement practitioners can use to identify future linkages.
- Numerous studies of TOC's links to intellectual property theft and the smuggling of natural resources, which developed more accurate estimates of the size and scope of these forms of TOC.
In 2010, NIJ funded two projects in this area — one at the University of California – Los Angeles, and the other at Michigan State University. The University of California project will employ an innovative methodology to estimate the size of an illicit market and to pinpoint the social networks that allow the market to function, a necessary step toward improving law enforcement targeting of TOC groups and those that facilitate them. The Michigan State project will detail the organization and operations of online credit card fraud with the goal of improving the field's understanding of how TOC groups are exploiting cybercrime. In 2010, NIJ also sponsored an evaluation of how foreign countries use unexplained wealth orders as a tool against TOC with an eye toward how the U.S. might employ this tool in the future.
About This Article
This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 268, October 2011, as a sidebar to the article Responding to Transnational Organized Crime — Supporting Research, Improving Practice by John T. Picarelli.