Criminal activity should be understood as an economic activity carried out by people rationally motivated to obtain income and pleasure, through crime, that is, ignoring both the immorality of the act and the suffering that they cause their victims.

In order to meet the demand for illicit products, the offer that is structured forms illicit markets. These are almost an economic sector, operated by criminals motivated by incentives and organized in criminal networks, which produce and trade products and services through the execution of crimes such as theft, smuggling, trafficking, forgery, theft, embezzlement, reception, corruption, robbery, homicide, among others.

Together, these crimes feed illicit, national and transnational markets, which form a profitable global illicit economy, while generating a series of damages, such as the epidemic of violent crimes, work analogous to slavery, damage to health and the environment.

This is the contemporary expression of crime: the formation of illicit markets and the consequent expansion of the illicit economy in the last 30 years beyond the country’s borders, encouraged by the high profitability afforded to criminal networks that enable the continuous supply of illegal products and services – such as drug trafficking, wild animals or people – or legal products diverted or manufactured illegally – such as tobacco, weapons, pesticides, electronics, food, clothing, audio-visuals, fertilizers, automobiles, beverages, medicines and fuels – as well as clandestine services such as the installation of cable TV, electricity and gas.

The expansion of these markets is one of the main contemporary risks for democracies, especially in developing countries. Gangs replace companies, making sectors unfeasible and forming criminal networks that operate through violence and corruption by public and private agents as a form of dispute and “regulation” of markets.

In the last decade, international economic and security organizations, such as the Organization for Trade and Economic Development (OECD), Interpol, Europol and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), started to monitor the problem and create forums for the development of efficient control strategies, in the sense of normative updating of criminal justice systems and operational modernization, such as informational integration with the private sector and between countries. The control of the “crime industry” requires a justice system that discourages this type of criminal action, imposing a cost compatible with the profits obtained from the offer of illicit products.

The Census of Illicit Markets is part of this process of quantitative and qualitative monitoring of illicit markets in Brazil and in the Triple Border region. Our objective is to detect and understand the evolution of the problem and, mainly, to provide reliable technical parameters for the evaluation and development of public policies or private control strategies, operating with public, private and scientific community partners.