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A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces other less powerful entities to pay protection money which allegedly serves to purchase protection services against various external threats, usually violence or property damage - sometimes perpetrated by the racketeers themselves.

In some cases, the "protection" is little more than extortion, with no real service rendered unto the victim. Otherwise, the 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 protection money is typically collected by a "bag man". Although the organization might be particularly coercive in obtaining protection money, it is usually careful to shelter its "mark" from attacks by competitor organizations that similarly attempt to solicit or threaten the targeted individuals or businesses. Disputes between organizations concerning territory consequently arise from two competing organizations attempting to extort from the same "clients".

Real-world examples

  • In the United Kingdommarker in the 1950s and 60s the Kray twins ran protection rackets in the East End of Londonmarker.
  • In the 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 Sicily, Italy, it is estimated that around 80% of businesses of the city of Palermomarker pay pizzo, or protection money, to the Mafia.

  • In Ciudad Ju├írezmarker, Mexico, when the Mexican Drug War escalated in 2008, criminal groups saw their financial backbone threatened and began asking for racketing money to businesses ranging from convenience stores to clubs and restaurants with the threat of burning down the business, kidnaping the owners or killing everyone inside with assault riffles. .

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