The Asian gangs are becoming dominant in many areas of illegal activities, including drug and human trafficking.
The Big Circle Gang
The Big Circle Gang has rapidly become one of the most notorious and successful Chinese gangs in the world. The origins of the group go back to Chinas Red Guard, and the group has units-based throughout the world, including the U.S. And Canada. The Red Guards carried out Mao Zedongs harassment of Chinas middle class during his rule in China. After his death in 1976, the Red Guard was dissolved, “many Red Guards were sent to re-education prison camps around the city of Canton — represented on maps by a big circle, hence the name — where they were tortured and starved. Having been through this degradation and having military training, they have a fearsome reputation” (Hall, 2005). Many escaped China and relocated to Hong Kong, and then immigrated to the U.S. And Canada, where they formed their own gang units.
Like their Italian counterparts, the Big Circle deals primarily in drug trafficking, loansharking, and counterfeiting currencies and goods. They also deal in human smuggling and trafficking, and exporting stolen vehicles, which differs from most Italian operations, including the Genovese family. Unlike their Mafia cousins, the Big Circle is made up of very small units called “cells,” in each location, and this makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to find or infiltrate them (Hall, 2005). In contrast, the Genovese and other Mafia families are extremely large. Author Paoli continues, “The sheer size of the American mafia families has long prevented their members from interacting informally with each other, as is instead the case in most Sicilian mafia groups, and has favored internal stratification and segmentation” (Paoli, 2003, p. 7). Thus, most Asian gangs like the Big Circle are harder to control because they are smaller, less conspicuous, and less likely to accept new, unknown members.
Power and control is also very different between the two organizations. Another writer notes, “Unlike the Godfather in a western organized crime family, a significant crime figure in the Chinese criminal underworld is defined by the size of profits generated from his proliferated illegal business ventures and his influence/power derived from his worldwide web of economic and political connections” (Mahlmann, 2007).
The Chinese gangs are also much more flexible than Italian groups. Author Mahlmann continues, “They will change their methods of operation and/or their criminal activities based on each situation or project. They are also patient when it comes to protecting an established venture” (Mahlmann, 2007). In contrast, many Italian groups began their careers with gambling and other illegal enterprises, and did not move into drug trafficking and other activities until much later in their careers. They are less flexible than Chinese gangs are, because there is more of a hierarchy to make decisions, while Chinese gangs are constantly assessing their options and their activities to ensure they are always profitable.
In conclusion, while these two groups do have many similarities, they do have marked differences in how they are organized, what activities they engage in, and how they do business. It does not seem these two groups could ever merge into one cohesive organization, because the differences between them are simply too great. Many of the great Italian Mafia families (including the Genovese family) have fallen into decline in the last decade, and it seems the Asian gangs are easily replacing them.
1994). Handbook of organized crime in the United States (R. J. Kelly, K. Chin, & R. Schatzberg, Ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Hall, N. (2005). Big Circle Boys born of Red Guards: Drugs, loansharking among Asian gangs specialties. Retrieved from the Canada.com Web site: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/specials/websterawards/story.html?id=56ca11d5-f4e6-455a-b686-f7cc9b668c125 May 2007.
Mahlmann, N. (2007). Chinese criminal enterprises. Retrieved from the U.S. State Department Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov/eap/Archive_Index/Chinese_Criminal_Enterprises.html5 May 2007.
Paoli, L. (2003). Mafia brotherhoods: Organized crime, Italian style. New York: Oxford University Press..