The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy


Criminal gang activity is unlawful activities carried out by a continuing organization that forms to commit crimes and knowingly participates in a sequence of criminal gang operations. A good example is the mafia, which is a hierarchically organized group of criminals mostly of Sicilian or Italian ancestry (Acemoğlu et al., 2018). The phrase can refer to both a traditional Sicilian criminal organization and a criminal organization in the United States (Sarker, n.d.). There are six major mafia organizations, but Costa Nostra of Sicily, ‘Ndrangheta from Calabria, and the Neapolitan mafia are the most notorious and influential. The research paper provides an understandable and critical explanation of the criminal gang activities in Italy. It also tries to answer the following question: What practices are carried out by the anti-gang policy to ensure that they achieve good results in dealing with criminal gang activities and youth crime by Italian mafia organizations? Overall, though some people tend to underestimate the influence of the mafia, in Italy, the three criminal groups perform various illegal operations and have a strong impact on children, which may be explained by a sociological approach. While the government and ordinary people try to resist them by introducing policies and operations, their efforts are only relatively successful.

The Sicilian Mafia

The Sicilian mafia is an Italian terrorist formulated crime union and criminal community originating from the island of Sicily and dating to at least the nineteenth century. The Sicilian mafia is described as an open organization of criminal category with a similar structure and ethics and the family being its primary union (Ficara et al., 2019). Every family acquires a rule of territory, mostly a town, village, and a community neighboring a larger city (Dickie, 2015). The members of this group call themselves men of honor, while the citizens refer to them as Mafiosi more often. Due to a wide-scale migration from Sicily in the twentieth century, the Sicilian mafia developed gangs in the north and south America. These gangs copied their traditions and activities, which they believed to be of Sicilian ancestors.

The Sicilian mafia’s main activities are carrying out threats, solving disputes between members, and organizing and overseeing illegal agreements and transactions. They also protect their members and business people from thieves, distortion, and frauds (Dickie, 2015). Scholars such as Diego Gambetta and Leopold Franchetti describe the Sicilian mafia as ahead of independent safety organizations (Cavallaro et al., 2020). This is because their primary role is to offer security and promises trust in sectors of the Sicilian economy where the courts and law authorities cannot be relied upon.

Current criminal activities of the Sicilia Mafia have rather adverse effects on the communities’ wellbeing. As noticed by Balsamo (2006), “the modern Sicilian mafia represents a threat to democracy, operating both as an enterprise syndicate, in the context of economic globalization, and as a power syndicate” (p. 373). The latter is because the mafia “exacts extortion tax from all the businesses in a given area” (Balsamo, 2006, p. 373). In other words, businesses have to pay taxes to the members of the Sicilian mafia in order to receive protection and also avoid becoming their target. Other criminal activities of this unlawful group include international drug and arms trafficking (Cavallaro et al., 2020), assault and murder, terrorism, kidnapping, fraud and robbery, money laundering, prostitution, and gambling (Dickie, 2015). Such a variety of unlawful businesses makes it especially challenging for the government to track and limit the mafia’s activity.

Further, it is essential to mention the role of children in the Sicilian mafia. Members of this criminal organization actively incorporate teenagers into their illegal business. For example, the children of the current Sicilian mafia participants or homeless kids are encouraged to take part in drug trafficking, fraud, and other criminal activities (Iacolino et al., 2017). Further, those who grow up alongside criminality are more likely to follow the path of mafiosi. Willian (1999) mentions that the Sicilian mafia organized a school for teenagers to teach them to murder and rob people. Some kids are as young as eleven, and they already know how to sell drugs, threaten citizens, and shoot. This school serves as “an alternative to compulsory state education,” and these criminal students are sent to actually kill their victims – a task that most teenagers perform greatly (Willian, 1999, para. 3). Therefore, it is essential to notice that the Sicilian mafia also has a rather negative impact on the lives of young children by encouraging them to become mafiosi.

The Camorra of Naples

The Italian city of Naples is a rather beautiful place that is being poisoned by the mafia daily. The Camorra of Naples is another very influential and powerful criminal organization that spoils the lives of many people around the world and particularly in Italy. Nowadays, it is considered as threatening as the Sicilian mafia. According to Allum (2016), this crime group “dominates much of the socio-economic life of contemporary Naples” and “is notoriously the most violent, fractious, and disorganized mafia in Italy” (p. 4). Many local businesses and criminal activities are under the control of the Camorra. These activities include counterfeit and drug trades and local extortion rackets (Allum, 2016). Additionally, this illegal organization has a substantial political impact throughout the city and its suburbs.

The Camorra of Naples appeared in the nineteenth century, but initially, its activities were mostly invisible. Some researchers also argue that it is possible to trace the Camorra’s history back to the sixteenth century, but many aspects and points of its illegal business are completely extinct (Behan, 2005). One of the most concerning impacts of the Camorra is the group’s connections with numerous politicians who allow the crimes to happen and also commit misdeeds themselves. In the 1980s, the Camorra of Naples began to grow and expand its influence, becoming one of Italy’s most powerful illegal organizations.

Nevertheless, despite the great power and influence of the Camorra in Naples and Italy, they become more modest and invisible when going abroad. In other words, when local policies and governmental interventions make the members of the Camorra leave their business and move away from Naples, it becomes rather challenging for the criminals to continue their illegal activities. As noticed by Allum (2016), when the Camorra participants are outside Italy, they are no longer associated with criminals simply because of their membership. Therefore, they generally become invisible, avoiding too evident deployment of violence (Allum, 2016). Some of the most influential members of the Camorra manage to continue their illegal actions abroad by using local political figures or lawyers.

Further, it is also necessary to mention that the youth is also involved in the Camorra’s illegal operations. Just like the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra of Naples encourages young children and adolescents to take part in their business. Ferrè (2015) states that organized crime in the city is becoming more youthful and difficult to control. The local criminal system employs kids, and this is not a newly introduced practice. These children are called ‘Young Camorrists’ or “muschilli [little flies] – drug-dealers and young couriers” (Ferrè, 2015, para. 2). Generally, they take on minor roles; unlike the Sicilian mafia, the members of Camorra do not often trust teenagers with killing people and allow them only to work as intermediaries. However, some adolescents who display extraordinary skills can even become bosses while being young, and every year, children get more and more roles within the illegal business of the Camorra of Naples.

‘Ndrangheta of Calabria

‘Ndrangheta is a notoriously known illegal community-based organization that performs its criminal activities primarily in Calabria’s peninsular and close regions. It dates back to the eighteenth century and now is considered even more influential and powerful than the Sicilian mafia. Its culture is connected with Calabria’s rules and spiritual life (Catino, 2020). The syndicate rituals and structures are made up of scriptural nods. Its clans are closed and managed, unlike other mafia organizations, and its structure makes the members more resilient, giving them the ease to seize new opportunities. In terms of initiation, the new members are instructed on calling everyone an opposer and calling themselves an honorable opposer. A dinner is carried out to allow new members to pledge that from this moment, that which counts is only the organization, and if there is a need, they will murder their parents and siblings to protect it. It is the most powerful crime union in the west, with increased, ever-growing investments in global capital markets.

The name ‘Ndrangheta entered Italian criminal records as a mafia-type organization in 2010. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2020), it happened almost thirty years after the Sicilian Cosa nostra became well-known. ‘Ndrangheta members expand their major activity of fraud off government contracts and looting the state-funded regional health care system into global arms and drug trafficking (Donadio, 2020). The criminal interests of this illegal organization include embezzling public funds, rigging contracts, exempting tasks, fraud, extortion, gambling, trafficking of humans and weapons, and unlawful management of refugee facilities. Finally, it is essential to notice that, just like the two previously discussed illegal groups, ‘Ndrangheta also encourages children to participate in their activities.

Effectiveness of Italian Anti-Mafia Association Laws

It cannot be dismissed that Italian mafias’ resonance is a fundamental phenomenon worldwide. Due to the ongoing and expanding criminal gang activities, the anti-gang policies in Italy have been recognized as the most progressed system used in fighting organized crimes (Europol, 2013). Comparative analysis, for instance, shows how the Italian mafia-fighting system has thrived and has influenced how policies are developed outside of Italy to combat criminal organizations. Giuffrida (2019) affirmed that Italian mafias are and have also been regarded to be ideal organized groups through being powerful and complex, thereby infiltrating the country’s economic systems. Even though the Mafia is carrying out unlawful operations, they still aim to achieve their goals through mindful and thought-through practices. The anti-gang policies that require to impact society in the right and moral way aim to eliminate mafia operations, and it is essential to evaluate their efforts and outcomes.

The primary role of the Italian government is to reveal to citizens that mafia crimes are seriously penalized, not taken into consideration, and are not beneficial. The penalization of mafia individuals and the aim of riding them of their affluence are strong elements of the anti-mafia policy framework. This step has helped the Italian authorities raise awareness of the consequences of becoming a member of any illegal group and taking part in organized crimes (Marriaga et al., 2021). It also informed the leaders and members of the mafia of the consequences of illegal activities. For example, the public is notified of the dangers of helping crime leaders conduct unlawful activities like trafficking drugs and humans to ensure they do not participate in such practices even when asked to. Anti-mafia policies in Italy have an advanced framework that helps in coordination and effective communication when working in an organized way and setting regulations that promote interventions with specific interrogative tools.

Italian government introduces special operations and policies to eliminate the influence of illegal groups. For instance, in 2021, an operation “was carried out on the ground in Italy by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate” (Europol, 2021). The aim was to address the activities of the mafia members, and about thirty suspects were arrested. The Italian government also organizes other operations that should result in the elimination of the mafia. Additionally, in the same year, a hundred more suspects were arrested in Italy, and many of them were members of the Sicilian mafia, the Camorra of Naples, or ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria (Klein, 2021). Finally, it is vital to notice that ordinary people also help their country get rid of mafiosi. As stated by Hammer (2010), Italians rise against illegal groups and try to protect their children by opposing the power and influence of the mafia. Thus, it is possible to say that the joint efforts of the Italian government and ordinary people are relatively effective. While they still did not manage to eliminate mafiosi, they are actually getting successful.

Conclusion and Recommendations

To draw a conclusion, one may say that the impact of various mafiosi groups in Italy is devastating and extremely strong. The Sicilian mafia, the Camorra of Naples, and ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria manage not only to get control over local politicians and operations but also encourage young children to take part in their criminal business. Therefore, it is necessary to address the general issue of mafiosi impact and eliminate their adverse influence on young kids and adolescents in the nearest future. It is recommended that the Italian government and communities collaborate and unite their efforts to fight against illegal organizations. It is vital to identify the gaps in the existing policies and laws that ban participation in such criminal groups and prohibit their business. Citizens and authorities need to work together toward finding the right solutions to promote individual safety because the effectiveness of the current anti-Mafia association laws is under question.

Anti-gang organizations should conduct more research using the right resources and sources to attain current and right information. At the same time, the government should work closely with anti-gang companies by promoting their initiatives and objectives. New technologies and applications need to be utilized to promote quicker investigations and arrests, as well as educate the community, especially young children, about the dangers and illegal aspects of such criminal groups. Finally, it is possible to say that unlawful gang organizations have been the cause of reoccurring criminal activities. These organizations act as social movements contributing to a large gang cycle with people of all ages and gender. Therefore, it is upon communities, police officers, authorities, and anti-gang companies to adopt better strategies for breaking such cycles. In Italy, the existing number of mafias indicates how communities suffer under such vicious operations.


Acemoğlu, D., De Feo, G., & De Luca, G. (2018, March 2). Causes and consequences of the Sicilian mafia. VOX, CEPR Policy Portal. Web.

Allum, F. (2016). The invisible Camorra. Cornell University Press.

Balsamo, A. (2006). Organized crime today: The evolution of the Sicilian mafia. Journal of Money Laundering Control, 9(4), 373-378. Web.

Behan, T. (2005). The Camorra: Political criminality in Italy. Routledge.

Catino, M. (2020). Italian organized crime since 1950. Crime and Justice, 49(1). Web.

Cavallaro, L., Ficara, A., De Meo, P., Fiumara, G., Catanese, S., Bagdasar, O., Song, W., & Liotta, A. (2020). Disrupting resilient criminal networks through data analysis: The case of Sicilian Mafia. PLOS ONE, 15(8). Web.

Dickie, J. (2015). Cosa Nostra: A history of the Sicilian Mafia. St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Donadio, R. (2020). Putting the ’Ndrangheta, Italy’s Most Powerful Crime Syndicate, on Trial. The Atlantic. Web.

Europol. (2013). Italian organised crime [PDF document]. Web.

Europol. (2021). New action at EU level against ‘Ndrangheta in Italy and Germany. Web.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2020). History of La Cosa Nostra. Web.

Ferrè, R. R. (2015). The new generation of young mafia members terrorizing Naples. Vice. Web.

Ficara, A., Cavallaro, L., Meo, P. D., Fiumara, G., Catanese, S., Bagdasar, O., & Liotta, A. (2019). Social network analysis of Sicilian Mafia interconnections. In International Conference on Complex Networks and Their Applications (pp. 440-450). Springer.

Giuffrida, A. (2019). Italy’s mafia networks are more complex and powerful, says the minister. The Guardian. Web.

Hammer, J. (2010). In Sicily, defying the mafia. Smithsonian Magazine. Web.

Iacolino, C., Pellerone, M., & Ferraro, A. M. (2017). Mafia perception in relation to Sicilian teenagers’ moral disengagement and value orientation the role of educational and family contexts. World Futures, 73(6), 396-411.

Klein, D. (2021). Italy arrests 103 in anti-mafia operations across the country. OCCPR. Web.

Marriaga, R., Hussain, S., & Gutierrez, L. (2021). RICO: The anti-mafia law. FAU Undergraduate Law Journal, 8-15. Web.

Sarker, A. (n.d.). American mafia and future. Department of Criminology. Web.

Willian, P. (1999). Mafia sets up crime academy to train child assassins. The Guardian. Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


LawBirdie. (2023, March 27). The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy. Retrieved from


LawBirdie. (2023, March 27). The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy.

Work Cited

"The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy." LawBirdie, 27 Mar. 2023,


LawBirdie. (2023) 'The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy'. 27 March.


LawBirdie. 2023. "The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy." March 27, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy." March 27, 2023.


LawBirdie. "The Impact of Criminal Gangs on Italy." March 27, 2023.