A middle income country with weak institutions, which is heavily dependent on tourism and trade for its foreign currency, has a problem with rising crime rates. There are many petty criminals from destitute farmers due to flood of subsidized food from EU & USA. Also there's a large influx of foreign criminals from its poor neighbouring countries.

How should country organize their native petty gangs into something like Yakuza, who will ply their trade (prostitution, drugs, gambling) in the red lights districts in exchange for keeping the citizens & tourists safe from petty criminals?

I mentioned Yakuza because

The yakuza are notorious for their strict codes of conduct and organized fiefdom-nature

I need a crime group that will work as long term business, meaning they won't kidnap tourists or rob them on the street, or sell drugs on main street. There's money flowing in and neither tourists nor traders will come if the cities are like war-zones.

Each group must be able to control their territory. Boss Tony might keep his illegal gambling, betting & "massage parlous" but if his boys get drunk and start shooting in broad daylight or immigrant gangs steal cars in his part of town there will be trouble for him, like raids and sending his family to jail. I don't care how boss Tony keeps order, beating up underlings, killing immigrant gangsters, whatever. But it must be done discreetly.

The government has enough strength to police 90% of the city districts. It's the 10% that create 90% of the crime problems that it wants to silently outsource. And it can't be done legally, because if it allows crime lords to openly sell drugs, organize illegal fights, launder money etc the government will be considered a rogue state, which means sanctions, embargo & maybe a regime change. So please no libertarian or anarcho-capitalist day dreams. Allowing Fat Tony and likes to "police" the slums is deniable, since there's crime everywhere even in the most developed countries.

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    $\begingroup$ An odd concept... a country intentionally developing organized crime to solve their disorganized crime problem. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon The Patrician called it, if there's going to be crime it might as well be organised. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ This would be one of the best clickbait-titles for the HNQ that I've seen so far. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't that what would happen naturally anyway? Not just with crime, but with any activity? Warring gangs/businesses form alliances to gain more power, their competitors do the same, weaker players join or die, eventually forming monopolies, demarcating their areas of control and establishing some sort of a armed truce. Just stay out of their way, they'll do it all by themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Headcrab
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ Yakuza plied their trade in the red lights districts and kept the citizens & tourists safe from petty criminals in exchange for MONEY. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:37

9 Answers 9


Recipe for creating your own brand of Yakuza

First you need a crime family core. Unlike the silly movies portraits where single gang consists of criminals of many races and ethnicities the real crime gangs are organized along the "tribal" lines. There must be some ties that bind the gang members together so they won't rat on each other and police would have a trouble to infiltrate them. That's why we heard about Italian mafia, Irish mob, Russian mafia, Mexican mafia, etc. Yakuza members weigh heavily on Burakamin and Koreans. Mara Salvatrucha is predominantly Salvadoran, Aryan brotherhood recruits white supremacists etc.

In your case the steps should be as follows:

  • Create a small protection agencies from your destitute farmers who will recruit few of their cousins and relatives from their mountain village and villages nearby.

  • Give your "protection agencies" weapons & training. That will give them huge advantage over their rivals.

  • Give them low pay but turn a blind eye on them charging protection racket of grey & black market businesses. Let law enforcement have their cut. On the other hand prosecute forcefully every law enforcement that takes bribes from other criminals. If your protection agencies are still too honest put a few bad apples to start the process.

  • If there is competition from gangs that you don't like or from immigrant criminals focus the law enforcement on unwanted crooks and/or allow your proteges to dispose of them themselves.

  • Allow them special privileges in the prisons. If the members from your "favorite" gangs are the only ones that could bring contraband in the jail, and could extort the other prisoners with little impunity from the guards they would become de facto bosses.

  • If some of them don't want to play ball, arrest them or take their agency license. Without weapons and government backing they will be quickly wiped out.

  • Wait. The best village gangs will learn what's allowed and what isn't. Those that are best at doing their "job" and making money and recruiting loyal members will grow and become real syndicates.

In the end be careful what you wish for, one day they might come after you.

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    $\begingroup$ It's important to note, though, that even though these "agencies" on a macro level seem to go good, on a micro level, it's VERY bad for some individuals. Look into the rise of mafias in Italy for some great source material. Overall, mafias seemed to help Italy out in a similar situation to what you describe. However, a lot of smaller business owners get bullied into submission because they disagree with the area's mafia or don't do what a mafia dictates it should. Remember that mafias are still illegal and you're giving them a loose leash to do what they want wherever they want. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ @BenSchwabe OP wanted organized crime and IMHO this is the easiest way to get it. From moral point of view it seems like he outsources law and order of the poorest and immigrants 10% of the society to group with nefarious motives but that's his choice. If the government can't really police them it's up to them. Japanese government also used Yakuza to keep labor down and intimidate the communists in the 50's. $\endgroup$
    – Dajanon
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ That's very true. I just wanted to add some more thoughts to your answer so that Top5AtLeast could embellish it more if they choose. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:51

Crack down on the small players, the tougher it is to be one of the small players the more they'll unite to become big players. The big players will then crack down on the small players themselves.

After that all you need to do is formalise the bribery into a system of taxes and you're all set for officially sanctioned organised crime.

Vetinari would be proud

As for the tourists: A simple fee payable in your hotel will guarantee immunity from all petty crime for the duration of your visit. Call it ... insurance, just remember to carry your receipt with you, you may need to show it.

Of course outside Ankh-Morpork it's never that simple, but some crimes require different environments to others.

Drugs always brings violence, how do you keep drug crime under control? Legalise and regulate. Let the pharmacies sell uppers and downers over the counter like they did once before. The drugs become safer because they're a known quantity, you no longer have organised crime selling drugs. Sure you'll get rowdy stag parties showing up to get high but that's always a risk of tourism. People will always find a way to get off their faces, legally or illegally.

Gambling and prostitution are the key industries you want. Both bring a certain level of tourist income and require a relatively safe and stable environment.

Protection rackets are a complex one, a certain level will have to be tolerated as protection from petty crime (you might not need an insurance industry in the same way) but you don't want the small businesses under too much pressure, the little people need to be able to make a living.

Your ideal situation is Big Tony running underground casinos and some questionable hotels providing a "safe" environment for the girls and having it in his best interests that the tourists don't get hassled on their way to and from his establishments.

Define the bounds within which he's allowed to operate and what behaviours will and won't be tolerated, if he strays outside them then clips his fingernails a little by arresting some minions, but give him freedom to operate otherwise. Depending on your arrangements you can call him in for a little chat if there's too much petty crime or the rules are breached. After all, you know where he lives and where his children go to school.

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    $\begingroup$ formalise the bribery into a system of taxes I was about to make a comment about how "this sounds a lot like government." I think it was Vimes who made the observation that government is just the entity that has a monopoly on violence in a region. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s: Vimes wasn’t the first, but he put it more memorably and colourfully than Bodin or Hobbes. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s, any sufficiently organized crime is indistinguishable from government. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ Problem is, it does not garantize anything. In Japan, Yakuza groups keep their bussiness while suppresing petty crime. In Italy, the different mafias (Cosa Nostra, N'Draghetta, etc...) mind their bussiness and usually suppress petty crime too, but they do a lot of crimes on local and foreign people. In Mexico, the carteles are big and powerful and prevent small players to get in the bussiness, but at the same time they are extremely violent and kill people by the tens of thousands every year. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft, there you're getting into the nature of the crimes involved and how the money is made. Drugs are always bad, but solved by legalising and regulating rather than current methods. You want them to be running gambling and prostitution mostly. Crimes that require a relatively safe environment bringing in outside money. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:21

We often think of things like nations as being neat entities with clear cut boundaries and rules, but the reality is that the state exists only where it can enforce itself. Some places are controlled by defacto states under a dejure national blanket, be they criminal, terrorist, or religious. I'm going to discuss the issues and potential solutions you may encounter on your quest to solve the petty crime problem, based on historical examples.

It has been said that in Italy the Mafia and state are separate, but in Russia the mafia is the state. Mafia clans are erratic, and will declare war or peace amongst themselves, or against the state; whatever suits their interests at the time. Italy's Second Mafia War resulted in thousands of murders. That is something of a contrast with the years immediately after the Second World War, when the CIA encouraged an anti-communist pact between Mafia, Catholic Church, and Italian state. Italian-American mobsters in US jails were released, given a one way ticket home, and told they could do as they liked so long as they kept communists out of government with the country's first election looming.

Modern Russia has to be understood through the collapse of the USSR. The KGB, rebranded FSB, became an extremely influential organisation as the rest of the country fought amongst itself for control of former state assets. Little surprise then that Putin, as the former head of the FSB, became president. Russia's culture of corruption is perpetuated from the top down, and money filters upwards through a "power vertical". Police extort money so long as some of it goes upwards. Organised crime exists because of implicit government support. There isn't really much of a distinction between the state, its organs, and any serious organised crime. Certain things are tolerated so long as they pay tribute to and follow orders from the top.

Northern Ireland is another interesting example. During The Troubles many parts of the country were controlled by terrorist organisations from either side of the conflict. In communities dominated by the PIRA; where nobody would go to the dejure British policing and legal authorities, they acted as judge jury and executioner. Conducting many executions allegedly to punish British spies, and conducted many kneecappings allegedly to punish petty criminals. One PIRA operation in 1992 called "Night of the Long Knives" saw them chasing a rival Republican terror group out of west Belfast; allegedly because the group's feuding and drug dealing was becoming an embarrassment to their nationalist cause. Of course, presently Sinn Fein have been in power sharing local government for years; and it's important to remember that PIRA/Sinn Fein are two sides to the same coin. Organised crime in Sinn Fein areas happens under PIRA sanction; otherwise the issue would be resolved by PIRA men as they did in the past.

So there are a few ways your state can handle the crime problem: tightly coupled, loosely coupled, or decoupled.

Tight coupling: like PIRA/Sinn Fein, means by design both sides of the system are stitched together. Of course, officially your politicians were never active members of X. But we all know that's not true. Indeed, without having been an active member of X it would be impossible to achieve political influence. Their reputation came from their personal involvement in "the struggle". The government has intimate knowledge and control of exactly what is going on at every level of society because it exists as a single institution throughout. Individuals can be disciplined because the organisation has a large pool of individuals under its direct command who can replace their peers.

Loose coupling: like Putin's Mafia State. This is a system with clearly defined boundaries between entities. Not only can association be denied, but the left hand doesn't necessarily know what the right does, or indeed who it is. This is unlike the former solution where status is common knowledge fundamental to the system's stability. The power vertical doesn't care exactly what any of its organs do, so long as they do the job and play by the rules. Those at the top, who likely belong to a state intelligence organisation, are aware of everything and hoard knowledge. The downside of this indirect control is that excesses can occur, and they are harder to deal with because there are fewer links in the chain; which makes those links less disposable.

Decoupling: like post-war Italy. Tasks are achieved by completely separate organisations whose relationships are based on trust instead of control, with very little operational knowledge of each other. This is unlike the previous two examples, in which a central organisations has command and control capabilities over most aspects of society. The downside is that when circumstances change violence between former allies is possible, and over the long term this is inevitable. This system however benefits from the highest degree of plausible deniability. Of course the president has nothing to do with X. But he did order his subordinate to send commands to them at a secret meeting.


As a short-term solution, your fictional country would develop informal but clear lists of unacceptable targets. Just as real-world police get really upset about cop killers and child molesters, your fictional cops will investigate any crime against a tourist, and they will investigate any crime against a well-connected merchant, but they will not investigate any crime against ordinary guys on the street.

The problem with that, of course, is that corruption and protection rackets will erode the professionalism of the police force. Pretty soon it is "arrest the usual suspects," and the protection of the tourists will break down.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds a little like Peru, where (so I was told by a local) the penalties for stealing are light unless the victim is a tourist, in which case it's 25 years in prison. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:41

The Vegas Mob allegedly did something like this back in the 50's and early 60's. Since the main source of income was skimming the take off gambling it made no sense at all to attack tourists directly. Less tourists= less gambling=less money for Fat Tony and his friends.

If you cross Fat Tony, he has resources on the scale of the police, but no annoying paperwork, court proceedings or expensive jails to slow things down. Breaking your kneecaps generally gets the message across, and you have plenty of time to think about what you did wrong.....

The system broke down because of the growth of the drug market, allowing "independent" operators to move in without regard for the casinos and gambling business, and drug gangs can be much more violent and unpredictable than the traditional mob. Once crime is "unmoored" from a single lucrative venture which requires a surface of tranquility to operate, then you get this:


He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents' friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money


Problem 1: weak institutions. If your government could organize things according to how you like it, it would do so.

Problem 2: profit motive for criminals is hampered because of weak institutions. If there is a gambling ring that is looking profitable, it gets shaken down by the cops or local politicos.

You are already trying to augment your weak government with the use of criminal enterprise. Do this completely. Empower Fat Tony and other likely criminals as "city managers". Enable profit motive of criminals by removing government interference and putting whatever governmental powers there are at the disposal of the crime bosses. Police will be under control of city manager and so will not interfere with his business. Police (and other arms of government) can be deployed by criminal to facilitate criminal enterprise / keep order / reduce competition (and chaos).

This very well may turn out as "careful what you wish for". If a crime boss wields the tools of government effectively he or she could increase in power and ultimately challenge and overthrow the weak-assed rulers who put this plan in place. Bad if you are them but probably better for the country.

  • $\begingroup$ Police could control 90% of the city, it's the 10% of the city that creates 90% of the problems that it wants to silently "outsource". Libertarians and anarco capitalist wet dreams, are not an option. The government must be in control at least formally. If Fat Tony gets legal tender to run his drug business the government will be become rogue state and that means, embargo , sanctions and possibly a regime change. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ Putting an shady entrepreneur in office is done all the time! His business gets a lift from his position. His business skills get you what you want. Do not give him legal tender - he must get that himself. Give him your blessing and the tools of government. We just did that in the US and so far so good. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:55

So the Yakuza (fun note: Yakuza solely refers to an individual or individuals. An organization is called a boryokudan ("violent groups") or as ninkyo dantai ("chivalrous groups") by the Yakuza themselves.) angle is actually one of the more interesting criminal organizations. Unlike the Italian Mafia (the most famous) or the Triads (Chinese) they are not secret societies... they're pretty open about their activities... they have headquarter office buildings, community relations (a big deal to them) and even Business Cards (HUGE deal to Japanese in general).

Organizationally Yakuza follow a traditional foster parent-foster son relationship. Unlike many other organizations, race is not much of a factor (10% of Yakuza are ethnically Korean, which is a 0.5% population in Japan and very much treated like second class citizens). Like most organized crime, members start when they are young and many Yakuza started while in middle or high school. Common ways to get involved in any organized crime are starting as a neighborhood child who is looked after by a member of the organization and forming familial bonds that substitute for real and/or absent family bonds.

Policy wise, Yakuza do not steal. Yakuza see themselves as a community protection group and their businesses as a feudal tax for their services. Many (including the largest) also forbid illicit drug trafficking (also not uncommon for other Mafia organizations... the plot of the Godfather revolves around the Italian Mafia forbidding drug trafficking). Yakuza are unique in the practice of racketeering in company board rooms... they will buy stock so they can be considered legitimate investors and then demand payment under the threat of raising issues the company really doesn't want brought up... real or fake... or threaten to expose the alleged wrong doings to the media (company management doesn't need to inform shareholders at meetings of the goings on in the company, so its easier to threaten to expose the horrors to the investors). Often times, the Yakuza make their money by buying or establishing operations and letting non-Yakuza manage it for them.

Yakuza are community oriented (famously during the 1995 Kobe earthquake and 2011 Tohoku earthquake, they provided disaster relief to affected areas, often times quicker than the government. Kobe being the home of the largest Yakuza organization helped a lot). They also have held public press conferences to warn civilians of when there might be trouble between rival gangs. Again, they are pretty open about what they do and crack downs are only recent in Japan (the biggest arrests occurring within the new millennium). Generally, they are a way of life in Japan and tend to keep general criminals at bay within their territory. As long as they do not carry guns, deal drugs, or threaten tourists, Japanese police will look the other way as the Yakuza do try to make their communities safer (all three police taboos tend to be Yakuza taboos as well). There are no less than six fan magazines in Japan, so the civilians tend to not mind them either (again, they aren't committing crimes against the community... they are committing crimes against the community's threats). Japan citizens tend to get upset with them only if the excessive violence gets out of hand. Yakuza also tend to have good government relations that are likened to lobbists in the states.

As a general rule, Japanese Government and Business are very close and intertwined, and since Yakuza tend to have investments in legitimate businesses, the relationships carry over. One of the reaons that Japan is hampered in stopping Yakuza is definitely in part by political pressure from business that are in turn pressured by the Yakuza combined with political pressure from the Yakuza themselves.

One thing I am concerned about is how separate is the Mafia in your country from the government? Is the head of state/head of country a member or very influenced by the mafia. If so, is he or she top dog, or just getting marching orders. Also, to what degree is the public okay with this corrupt crime happening? And to what degree has it been historical (Both the Italian Mafia and Yakuza are some of the oldest organized crime groups in the world. The former is ancient while the rather is at least a century old, but has traditions and principles that are just as ancient).

A government that is run by a corrupt organization (or extremely penetrated that they can strongly lobby against anti-organized crime laws) is called a mafia state and is a version of a Kleptocracy (literally "Rule by Thieves"). Though I have a family member who likes to joke that "a Government is nothing more than the legal mafia".

TL;DR: Yakuza are a great organization to use as a model because they exist in a state that you pretty much want. Also, don't neglect the public opinion and historical nature of operation from the community.


Bugsy Siegel

One of the brilliant reasons Cosa Nostra survived and thrived was services they offered the common man. I clearly understand they engaged in illegal activity, but they offered protection to people who worked with them. Sometimes you can't go to the police because of illegal activity. If some guy robs your illegal casino, you can't turn to the police. For a fee, they offered protection, loans and other services you can't find elsewhere.

What you need is a strong man character or a group who can help clean up their community by reaching out to the criminals robbing tourists and explain to them that the activities are no longer tolerated in that area. With enough men, the strong man becomes the boss of an area and controls other illegal activity and thrives. Once the reputation of safety is earned, the few dollars they charge is usually worth the price. The good life keeps the strong men in check. As the old saying goes in dating and business, you never fish off the company pier.

One of the advantages of Las Vegas when the mob ran it is that if you were in Vegas, you stayed alive. Nobody got hit in the town. There's plenty of holes out there in the desert, but the town itself was a safe zone. They also knew the value of tourists, offering them a cheap meal and never engaged in bottom-feeding practices like charging a guest to park at a casino where most likely they were going to drop money. It was accountants that doomed Bugsy Siegel when the Flamingo Casino was not a major moneymaker at first, but even he was killed outside of Vegas. But his plans he laid in Vegas as a safe haven turned that city from a cow town to a world-wide attraction where tourists were safe.

Good luck on your character.


The Answer is more simple than what these movie watchers suggest. As someone with real world experience I can tell you that fear moves respect. A team of loyal hitters and ghost scouts can accomplish more in a week than what's suggested here in a year.

If you're going to try to push lines you better have immediate access to big heavy duty klackers. Keep 1 on you at all times (better to be caught with it than without)

Building a rep is what tops you out. If you're not doing big things you gotta make big moves or no one will have a reason to click up. Don't fuck around. If you're not with the business someone who is will take your scalp off. Never play games, don't snitch, don't talk to anyone outside of your circles about business. Don't pillow talk with females (will get you robbed /killed)

Always think ahead and stay alert, don't let yourself get boxed in anywhere, don't pull up right behind cars, stay in turning lanes at stop lights (leave yourself room to maneuver), don't let anyone within arms distance of you.

Don't burn anyone, stay loyal, keep your word and always take care of your team. Be smart. Don't bring attention and stay off the phones. Treat everything like professional businesses and keep everyone on the same page.

Open legitimate businesses. Don't cross the two (never shit where you eat) Take care of your community and help civilians when you can (important for many reasons).

You're only as strong as your weakest link and only worth what you have to offer.


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