Dave Petruccelli is Ph.D. candidate in History, Yale University
Crime is a problem of international scale. Illicit activities that span the globe and efforts to combat them structure our daily lives in often overlooked ways, whether in the drug trade’s effects on urban and rural communities, terrorism’s reshaping of state powers and international relations, or white collar crimes’ challenges to the economic order. The fight against such international offenses rests on close cooperation between the world’s various police agencies. Yet it was only in the decades after the First World War that the core elements of the contemporary international law enforcement system coalesced around common norms, attitudes, and institutions. My dissertation seeks the roots of this system in the experiences of interwar Eastern and Central Europe. The challenges facing the new nation-states that emerged from the collapsing empires in this region – the unstable economies, porous and shifting borders, and political and social upheavals – spurred fears of international criminals taking advantage of the newly laid national boundaries to escape prosecution. The International Criminal Police Commission, now known as Interpol, emerged in Vienna in 1923 with the mission of promoting international police cooperation in response to these fears. My project explores the system of international policing that developed in this period by focusing on how this organization, the League of Nations, and various metropolitan and national police forces developed a system of international policing aimed at a range of specific offenses, such as human trafficking, the international drug trade, counterfeiting of currency, and international fraud.