A protection racket is a type of racket and a scheme of
organised crime Organized crime is a category of transnational organized crime, transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. While organized crime is gener ...
perpetrated by a potentially hazardous group, which guarantees protection outside the sanction of the law to another entity or individual from
violence Violence is the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy. Other definitions are also used, such as the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations ...

ransack Looting is the act of stealing, or the taking of goods by force, in the midst of a military, political, or other social crisis, such as war, natural disasters (where law and civil enforcement are temporarily ineffective), or rioting. The proc ...
arson {, The remains of Kyoto Animation , often abbreviated , is a Japanese animation studio An animation studio is a company producing animated media. The broadest such companies conceive of products to produce, own the physical equipment for produ ...
vandalism Vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. The term includes property damage Property damage ( cf. criminal damage in England and Wales) is damage or destruction of real Real may r ...

, and other such
threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. IntimidationIntimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" to fear injury Injury, also known a ...

s, in exchange for the
extorted Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through coercion. In most jurisdictions it is likely to constitute a crime, criminal offense; the bulk of this article deals with such cases. Robbery is the simplest and most common form of extor ...
payments in cash or kind. The perpetrators of the racket may protect vulnerable targets from other dangerous individuals and groups or may simply offer to refrain from themselves carrying out attacks on the targets, and usually both of these forms of protection are implied in the racket. In some instances, the potential threat to the target may be caused by the same group that offers to solve it in return for payment, but the protection money may ensure continued
funding Funding is the act of providing resources A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-re ...

of the
crime syndicate The Crime Syndicate are teams of supervillains from one of DC Comics' parallel universes where they are the evil counterparts of the Justice League. The original team was specifically known as the Crime Syndicate of America and is sometimes abbrev ...
by the coerced party. In other words, at least ostensibly, the protection racket sells physical security. Through the credible threat of violence, the racketeers deter themselves or others from swindling, robbing, injuring, sabotaging, or otherwise harming their clients. The racket often occurs in situations and places where the threats may not be effectively prevented or addressed by the prevailing system of law and order or governance, or in cases of inadequate protection by the law for certain ethnic or socioeconomic groups. Protection rackets tend to form in markets in which the law enforcement cannot be counted on to provide legal protection, because of incompetence (as in military power, weak, political corruption, corrupt, or failed states), illegality (when the targeted entity is involved in black markets), and/or where forms of popular Front, government distrust exist. Protection rackets are indistinguishable in practice from extortion rackets, and distinguishable from social service and private security by the degree of implied threat; the racketeers themselves may threaten and attack businesses, technological infrastructure, and citizens if the payments are not made. A distinction is possible between a "pure" extortion racket in which the racketeers might agree only not to attack a business and a broader protection racket offering some real private security in addition to such extortion. The criminals might agree to defend a business from ''any'' attack by either themselves or third parties (other criminal gangs). However, in reality, that distinction is doubtful, because extortion racketeers may have to defend their clients against rival gangs to maintain their profits. By corollary, criminal gangs may have to maintain control of territories (turfs), as local businesses may collapse if forced to pay for protection from too many rackets, which then hurts all parties involved. Certain scholars, such as Diego Gambetta, classify criminal organizations engaged in protection racketeering as "mafia", as the racket is popular with both the Sicilian Mafia and Italian-American Mafia.


A protection racket is an operation where criminals provide protection to persons and properties, settle disputes and enforce contracts in markets where the police and judicial system cannot be relied upon. Diego Gambetta's ''The Sicilian Mafia'' (1996) and Federico Varese's ''The Russian Mafia'' (2001) define the mafia as a type of organized crime group that specializes in the provision of private protection. Protection racketeers or mafia groups operate mostly in the black market, providing buyers and sellers the security they need for smooth transactions; but empirical data collected by Gambetta and Varese suggests that mafia groups are able to offer private protection to corporations and individuals in legal markets when the state fails to offer sufficient and efficient protection to the people in need. Two elements distinguish racketeers from legal security firms. The first element is their willingness to deploy violent forms of retribution (going as far as premeditated murder, murder) that fall outside the limits the law normally extends to civilian security firms. The other element is that racketeers are willing to involve themselves in illegal markets. Recent studies show that mafia groups or gangs are not the only form of protection racket or extra-legal protector, and another important form of protection racket is corrupt networks consisting of public officials, especially those from criminal justice agencies. For example, Wang's ''The Chinese Mafia'' (2017) examines protection rackets in China and suggests two types of extra-legal protectors, namely the Black Mafia (local gangs) and the Red Mafia (networks of corrupt government officials). Wang's narrative suggests that local gangs are quasi-law enforcers in both legal and illegal markets, and corrupt public officials are extra-legal protectors, safeguarding local gangs, protecting illegal entrepreneurs in the criminal underworld, offering protection to businesspeople, and selling public appointments to buyers.

Territorial monopolies

A protection racketeer cannot tolerate competition within his sphere of influence from another racketeer. If a dispute erupted between two clients (e.g. businessmen competing for a construction contract) who are protected by rival racketeers, the two racketeers would have to fight each other to win the dispute for their respective clients. The outcomes of such fights can be unpredictable, and neither racketeer would be able to guarantee a victory for his client. This would make their protection unreliable and of little value; their clients would likely dismiss them and settle the dispute by other means. Therefore, racketeers negotiate territories in which they can monopolize the use of violence in settling disputes. These territories may be geographical, or they may be a certain type of business or form of transaction.

Providing genuine protection

Sometimes racketeers will warn other criminals that the client is under their protection and that they will punish anyone who harms the client. Services that the racketeers may offer may include the recovery of stolen property or punishing vandals. The racketeers may even advance the interests of the client by forcing out (or otherwise hindering or intimidating) unprotected competitors. Protection from theft and vandalism is one service the racketeer may offer. For instance, in Sicily, Sicilian Mafia, mafiosi know all the thieves and fences in their territory, and can track down stolen goods and punish thieves who attack their clients. Protection racketeers establish what they hope will be indefinitely long bonds with their clients. This allows the racketeers to publicly declare a client to be under their protection. Thus, thieves and other predators will have little confusion as to who is and is not protected. Protection racketeers are not necessarily criminals. In ''A Short History of Progress'', Ronald Wright notes on p. 49, "The warrior caste, supposedly society's protectors, often become protection racketeers. In times of war or crisis, power is easily stolen from the many by the few on a promise of security. The more elusive or imaginary the foe, the better for Public Opinion (book)#The manufacture of consent, manufacturing consent."


*Danegeld, was a protection tax paid by Christendom to stop Viking raids. *During the late medieval and early modern era in the Scottish Marches, local farmers would often need to make payments to the Border Reivers as a form of protection money to ensure they were not attacked. These agreements were called "Black mal", where "mal" was an Old Norse word meaning agreement. The word blackmail entered the English language in 1530 as a result, but the word's meaning has changed since. *In Melbourne, Australia, Alphonse Gangitano ran a protection racket along the famous Lygon Street during the 1990s. *In Sicily, Italy, officials say that 80% of businesses in the city of Palermo pay ''Pizzo (extortion), pizzo'', or protection money, to the Sicilian Mafia. *In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, when the Mexican Drug War escalated in 2008, criminal groups like the Juárez Cartel saw their financial backbone threatened and began asking for protection money from businesses ranging from convenience stores to clubs and restaurants with the threat of burning down the business, kidnapping the owners or killing everyone inside with assault rifles. *In the early history of post-Soviet Russia, law enforcement was too underfunded and poorly trained to protect businesses and enforce contracts. Most businesses had to join a protection racket (known as a ''krysha'', the Russian word for "roof") run by local gangsters. *In the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 60s the Kray twins ran protection rackets in the East End of London.Metropolitan Police Service
The Kray twins - jailed in 1969
*Chauth, demanded by Sambhaji and Peshva Brahmins during Mahratta Invasions of Bengal and Mahratta Sackings of Goa and Bombay-Bassein.

Government protection rackets

Government officials may demand Bribery, bribes to look the other way or Extortion, extort something of value from citizens or corporations in the form of a Money trail, kickback. It need not always be money. A lucrative job after leaving office may have been in exchange for protection offered when in office. Payment may also show up indirectly in the form of a campaign contribution. Stopping governments agencies as a whole, and buying protection in the government is called regulatory capture.

See also

*Abusive power and control *Bribe Payers Index *Bid rigging *Conflict of interest *Extortion *Financial abuse *Foreign Corrupt Practices Act *Influence peddling *Jury tampering *Lobbying *Match fixing *Money trail, Money trail - Money loop *Organized crime *Pay to play *Pizzo (extortion) *Political corruption *Principal–agent problem *Racket (crime) *Revolutionary tax *Taxation as theft *Taxation of the Jews in Europe *Transparency International *Triad (organized crime) *Tribute


{{Authority control Extortion Organized crime Organized crime activity fr:Pizzo (mafia)