Italian Police Brace for (Actual) Mafia Wars

Sure, this gent's Italian, but he's not after the Mafia. Still...doesn't this image make you feel good and paranoid? Public domain photo from the US Navy.

An article in Time describes the deployment of 80 new Italian police officers in Calabria, where anti-Mafia officials are being threatened by the ‘Ndrangheta.

For those of you who aren’t Mafia nerds: the ‘Ndrangheta is one of southern Italy’s major criminal organizations, existing primarily in Calabria (the “toe” of Italy’s boot).

While the ‘Ndrangheta has historically been nowhere near as powerful as the far more famous Sicilian Mafia, both it and the Neapolitan Camorra have been growing in power since the early 1990s, when an unprecedented explosion of anti-government violence by the Sicilian syndicates resulted in an overwhelming full-court-press by the Italian people and government against Sicilian crime families.

In addition, the Stidda and the Sacra Corona Unita have appeared in the Puglia region (the “heel” of the Italian boot) in recent years to fill the vacuum left by a weakened Sicilian Mafia.

Time says about the Italian escalation:

The ramped-up precautions come after a campaign of escalating intimidation of public officials, which has included death threats, envelopes with bullets in them, a homemade bomb that blew up in the entrance to the courthouse in January and a package of dynamite that exploded outside a prosecutor’s house in August. Last week, the threats ticked up another notch, when police responded to an anonymous phone call, in which a man’s voice promised a “surprise” for Giuseppe Pignatone, the city’s chief prosecutor. Outside the courthouse, under an abandoned mattress, lay an unloaded bazooka.

…The ‘Ndrangheta is tightly woven into the region around Reggio Calabria, penetrating nearly all aspects of politics and society. But until recently, it was left largely unmolested by local law enforcement. “Police left their guns in the office,’ says Lirio Abbate, an Italian journalist and the author of The Mafia I Knew….Since the 2008 arrival of Pignatone, however, the pressure has been mounting.

….Even more worrying than the bazooka was the announcement last week by a Sicilian prosecutor that he had evidence of a secret summit, perhaps in September, between Italy’s three biggest criminal organizations. This time, according to an anonymous tip received by prosecutors, the three groups are said to have agreed on a potential hit list.

Creative Commons image of Venice carabinieri, 1924.

It’s not getting anywhere near as bad as 1992, when two key government prosecutors were assassinated by the Sicilian Mafia for pursuing Mob cases. But if it’s accurate that these three organizations are forming a conclave — and it seems likely — then southern Italy could be gearing up for a whole new round of extreme Mafia violence.

I can’t resist adding one post-script. In looking for a photo to illustrate this post, almost the only Creative Commons photos I could find of bona-fide Italian Carabinieri were of their cars. That’s why the photo leading this post is actually of Italian military police, on a training exercise concerning biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Does that say something about Italy, or about Flickr and Wikipedia? For what it’s worth, here’s a German one of Venice cops, circa 1924, wearing funny hats. That’ll teach ’em.

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