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  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    Criminological Theories and the Problems of Modern Piracy

    By

    Jon M. Shane, Ph.D. and Charles A. Lieberman, Ph.D.

    June 5, 2009

    John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    1

    Introduction

    Piracy and other maritime attacks have occurred nearly as long as there have been vessels on

    the waterways.1

    People living in this environment develop a disposition (motivation) to act in a criminal

    manner as a means to fulfill basic human needs.

    Among the many criminological theories, environmental and ecological theories are

    most appropriate to explain the origins and opportunities for piracy. When societys norms and

    institutions breakdown because of conflicting expectations, corruption, and political instability,

    social control becomes ineffectual. Local institutionsschools, churches, governmentlose the

    ability to exert control over people and geographical areas. When social controls wither and

    conventional traditions disintegrate, society loses the ability to regulate itself, which gives way to a

    culture that begins to identify with deviant behaviors that become normalized. This reversion to a

    state of nature enables criminal groups to rise and propagate in an environment dominated by a

    survivalist ideology. Criminal factions supplant conventional institutions and exert an influence over

    the denizen that fosters tolerance for criminal behavior because the inhabitants have lost the

    capacity to exercise control. Living in this environment produces social isolation, where there is

    little or no contact with mainstream society. As a result, crime and violence are seen as a near

    inevitable consequence of life.

    2

    1 May, 2008.

    Piracy is predicated on rather crude operating

    methods that bring offenders into contact with valuable targets that are easily converted into cash.

    Because piracy typically takes place in vast ocean waters, the targets are largely unprotected. When

    someone sufficiently motivated by social circumstances (e.g., inherited traits, hunger, poverty,

    unemployment and lack of conventional lifestyle) comes into contact with durable goods that are

    easily converted to cash and often insufficiently protected, piracy becomes a viable economic

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    2

    pursuit. Fortunately, there are ways to disrupt the intersection of motivated offenders, suitable

    targets, and capable guardians that can reduce the likelihood of a piracy occurring.

    Piracy Defined

    In 1981, in response to increased maritime crime, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB),

    a quasi-governmental organization of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) was created.

    The IMB was designed to combat all types of maritime and trade crime, including documentary

    credit fraud, charter party fraud, cargo theft, and piracy. According to the IMB, piracy is the act of

    boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity

    to use force in furtherance of that act.3

    Piracy is distinguished from simple hijacking in two respects: first, an act of piracy requires

    that two vessels are involved in the incident; second, an act of piracy requires that the crime has

    been undertaken for private, not political, purposes.

    4

    The Nature of Piracy

    The IMB's definition covers actual or

    attempted attacks, whether the ship is berthed, at anchor, or at sea. Petty thefts are excluded unless

    the thieves are armed. This definition seems quite practical for today's needs and is broad enough to

    cover the widening variety of types of attacks being seen today. Commercial crime is growing

    quickly, as is evidenced the IMBs Weekly Piracy Report. The nature of piracy has changed

    significantly since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Todays pirate is often more barbaric and

    better prepared, due to the implementation of technological advancements, to fight than ever

    before.

    2 Maslow, 1943. 3 ICC IMB, 1998. 4 McDaniel, 2000.

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    3

    The days of the swashbuckler swinging on a chandelier, brandishing a trusty cutlass, are long

    gone. Disguised by a patch over one eye, oversized hoop earrings, and a puffy shirt, the pirates

    outfit of yesteryear has given way to the modern pirates accouterments: high-powered weapons,

    vanguard communications, and the ominous black balaclava. It is sophistication and celerity (the

    swiftness of small motorized vessels) that enable the modern terrorist-pirate to ply their trade,

    making the shipping industry more and more vulnerable to attack. The 2008 IMB Annual Report

    revealed 1,845 actual or attempted acts of piracy occurred worldwide between 2003 and 2008. In

    addition, an IMB report for the first quarter of 2009 provides a comparison for first quarter attacks

    from 2004 through 2009 (See Table 1).5

    Table 1: Actual and Attempted Attacks, 20032008

    Year Total Attacks Year JanMar Attacks

    2003 445 2004 79 2004 329 2005 56 2005 276 2006 61 2006 239 2007 41 2007 263 2008 49 2008 293 2009 102

    20032008 1,845 20042009 388 ICC IMB 2008 Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships Annual Report ICC IMB 2009 Report for the Period 1 January 31 March, 2009

    During the period 20032008, there appeared to be a downward trend in actual and

    attempted attacks despite a slight increase in the number of attacks in 20072008 (Figure 1). This

    trend is primarily due to the high number of attacks (N2003 = 445) in 2003, compared with the

    declining numbers in the subsequent three years (N2004 = 329; N2005 = 276; N2006 = 239).

    5 ICC IMB, January 2009; ICC IMB, April 2009.

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    4

    Figure 1

    Based on the numbers for 2007 and 2008 (N2007 = 263; N2008 = 293), the downward trend

    indicated by an analysis of the IMB 2008 Annual Report appeared to be reversing. In addition, the

    IMB report for the first quarter for 2009 suggests an upward trend, as the number of attacks for the

    first quarter of 2009 (N1stQ2009 = 102) is nearly double the average (N1stQavg2005-2008 = 51.75) of the

    prior four years (Figure 2).

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. Must be cited as: Shane, J.M. and Lieberman, C.A. (2009). Criminological theories and the problems of modern piracy. In M.R. Haberfeld and Agostino von Hassell (2009), Maritime Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The Challenge of Piracy for the 21st Century. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

    5

    Figure 2

    An examination of recent attacks provides a picture of the types of ships most frequently

    targeted by pirates. Tankers tend to be most often targeted (NTanker = 85), accounting for more than

    one-third of all attacks in 2008, and the numbers for the first quarter of 2009 project a 46 percent

    increase.

    Table 2: Attacks by Vessel Type Vessel 2008 JanMar 2009 Projected 2009 Container 49 16 64 Bulk Carrier 48 32 128 Chemical Tanker 39 12 48 General Cargo 38 10 40 Tanker 30 11 44 Tug 16 1 4 Product Tanker 16 4 16 Total 236 86 344

    The depiction of maritime attacks by vessel type in Figure 3, comparing the numbers for

    2008 with the projections for 2009 based on the first quarter of 2009, provides some insight into the

    decision-making process among pirates. For most of the vessel types, the projection of attacks for

    2009 remains fairly consistent; however, there is an upward trend for attacks on bulk carriers. This

  • Copyright 2009 by Kendall Hunt Publishing

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