They exist—as do crimogenic families—and this article from Rand looking at the Somali Pirates applies as much to U.S. criminals.

An excerpt.

The public gets its first look this week at the movie Captain Phillips, the dramatization of the real life hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by four Somali gunmen in 2009.

The movie brings to life the harsh realities of modern-day piracy off the Horn of Africa. Like most pirate tales, this one takes place at sea, but it does not ignore the land-based factors that drive the story’s antagonists.

For Somali youth — some as young as 16 — the pirate life offers an enticing escape from the grinding poverty and cyclical unemployment that have long gripped this part of the world. Until their economic conditions change, the prospect of armed attacks occurring in the Gulf of Aden will remain real — continuing to undermine security in one of the world’s most important commercial maritime transit corridors.

The average Somali lives on less than $2 a day. Even fishermen, who are comparatively well off by national standards, face difficulties making a living due to the chronic depletion of sea stocks from years of poaching and illegal dumping of toxic waste.

Allure of hijackings

Under such circumstances, the allure of piracy is clear. Ransoms for the release of a major tanker, its cargo and crew today average $3 million to $5 million. Although attack teams receive only a tiny proportion of this ransom, potential earnings are still more than many Somalis make in a lifetime.

Moreover, being associated with a successful hijacking garners considerable social respect, not least because a percentage of the bounty is usually reinvested into local communities. To these people, pirates are seen as an economic lifeline.