Organised crime works on a market, so it is often focused on handling stolen goods and smuggling various items that are in demand, such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. It is also common for prostitution to be carried out in an organised way, which leads to crimes such as pimping and human trafficking. Organised crime makes up a criminal operation where crime is committed systematically and for the sake of profit.
Brå defines organised crime as follows:
- A network-based, profit-making criminal operation in project form that has the desire and the ability to protect and facilitate crime through unlawful influence (harassment, threats, violence and corruption).
- Within the "projects", which succeed each other, there is work sharing and such flexibility that individuals come and go from the projects.
- The operation is generally carried out discreetly, but may sometimes be expressed in visible gangs, with provocative behaviour, symbols and claims to power.
The group has not formed for its own sake, but is needed in order to carry out the crime. Different individuals assume various roles, or "trades". The term "organisation" should, however, not be taken too literally. As a rule, the groups are very flexible — people come and go, the operation falls off but then mobilises again when the next project is to be carried out. But it can still be spoken of as an organisation with a solid core that sets the operation in motion and controls it. Usually, the organisation benefits from keeping a low profile. They want to operate on the illegal market without being seen.
But there is also a much more visible kind — organisations where community and brotherhood apparently mean more than the criminal operation. It is criminal gangs that can spread anxiety by their provocative behaviour and visible symbols, such as vest tops and emblems.