1 educational forum response 300 words masters level Must have references

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Develop 1 educational forum response 300 words masters level Must have references. Responded to this discussion posting with references and no plagiarism.

Compare the Italian Mafia groups (La Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndrangheta) to transnational organized crime groups today based on their criminal activities and organizational make-up.  Analyse whether the traditional Italian Mafia groups more closely align with the definitions of an organized crime group or a terrorist organization, or if they have characteristics of both.  


The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defines organized crime as a structured group of three or more persons acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes to achieve either financial or material benefit (Finckenauer, 2005).  Ultimately, organized crime has been found to have a number of specific characteristics or attributes including: non-ideological in nature, have a hierarchical structure, have exclusive membership, are self-perpetuating, use violence and bribery, demonstrate a specific division of labor, are monopolistic, and are governed by explicit rules and regulations (Lyman & Potter, 2006).  The Italian Mafia has long served as the primary example of a true organized crime group for much of Western Europe and the United States since their rise to significant power in the mid-1900s.  Groups such as La Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndrangheta, already known in Italy, provided the United States’ a first look at what a type of power a large criminal organization could yield.  Images of The Godfather often come to mind when discussing the Italian Mafia groups, their hierarchy, and their leadership.  Since their initial rise to power, however, how do the groups truly relate to the typical criminal organizations of today?

Historically, the Italian Mafia encompassed a hierarchy with particularly tough membership restrictions but which has led them to achieve great power in their primary areas of operation in Italy.  In fact, only men born either in Sicily (La Cosa Nostra) or in Calabria (‘Ndrangheta) or those who are descendants of mafia families are admitted to the groups as members (Paoli, 2008).  Additionally, the Italian Mafia groups place extreme significance on member’s and recruit’s nationality and heritage that their pool of recruits is often even further limited (Paoli, 2008).  These limitations often further dictate the limited reach of the Italian Mafia in today’s criminal world.  In the case of the ‘Ndrangheta, however, many Mafia families have fled to other countries, allowing for a much easier expansion (Spolar, 2008).  In fact, the structure of ‘Ndrangheta at some points in recent history has been compared to the cell-based organizational structure of some of today’s most well-known terrorist organizations (Spolar, 2008).  Unlike La Cosa Nostra in this instance, ‘Ndrangheta does not necessarily have a singular leader in the organization and arresting one key leader does not immediately hamper the organization’s ability to continue operating (Spolar, 2008).  Unlike most organized crime groups today, the primary goal of Italian Mafia members has not been producing or trading in illegal commodities or maximizing profits, but instead focuses on policing the general population while settling disputes and participating in racketeering (Paoli, 2008).  Italian Mafia leaders crave power above all else, aiming to control their territory by exercising regional political domination through entrepreneurial activities, extortion, and intimidation (Paoli, 2008).  While mafia members may participate in additional criminal activities, such as bank robberies, murder, prostitution, etc., these acts are only secondary to their primary “businessman-like” role in Italian society.  The mafia has historically also participated in drug trafficking but today does to a far lesser extent.  

Some of today’s most significant and well-known organized crime groups consist of what were previously known as drug trafficking organizations but currently participate in many of the same crimes once thought of as Italian Mafia crimes.  Mexican DTOs, for example, used to participate primarily in drug trafficking and drug trafficking related crimes.  Now, however, these organizations have started to morph into transnational criminal organizations which participate in numerous additional crime violations including: extortion, assassination, kidnapping, auto theft, human smuggling, controlling prostitution, resource theft, money-laundering, software piracy, and other illicit enterprises (Beittel, 2012, p. 1, 18).  These same groups have also significantly increased their firearms trafficking activities between the U.S. and Mexico in order to aid in deadly turf wars.  In fact, of nearly 100,000 guns seized by Mexican authorities between 2007 and 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) found that approximately 68% of those guns originated in the United States (Beittel, 2013, p. 38).  Mexican DTOs have long participated in kidnappings, assassinations, and extortions as a means to further their drug trafficking activities, but have also began using these crimes as a form of terroristic activity designed to dissuade local Mexicans from working against them.  Each of the above mentioned crimes, while not always performed in support of drug trafficking, has led to the current transnational criminal organization designations for some of Mexico’s DTOs.

In the case of terrorist organizations, however, the situations and criminal activities involved are often fueled by strikingly different motivations.  The United States Department of Defense’s (DOD) definition of terrorism as “the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives” (Hoffman, 1998).  Insurgent groups, guerrilla organizations, and terrorist organizations by nature are often violent, employ terroristic tactics, stage attacks against the government, and often aim to overthrow their current governing body.  The first three characteristics of these groups sound like most drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and other organized crime groups currently operating throughout the world today.  The last characteristic, wanting to overthrow the current government, is what sets typical organized crime groups apart from these insurgent groups and guerrilla organizations.  The Italian Mafia groups actually share this particular characteristic with terrorist organizations.  As I previously mentioned, the Italian Mafia takes a strong interest in politics and in fact, have participated in at least three plots organized by right-wing terrorist groups (Paoli, 2008).  Furthermore, the Mafia historically challenged state power when they murdered two prominent judges in 1992 via bombing and in 1993 when they set off an additional series of bombs (Paoli, 2008).  

Ultimately, while the Italian Mafia certainly fits many of the criteria for an organized crime group, they are certainly different than the more traditional groups operating today.  They have arguably lost a significant amount of international power in the last several decades, likely due to increased law enforcement actions both nationally and internationally.  It could, however, be argued that the Italian Mafia, if not now, then at one point was arguably a terrorist organization for the country of Italy.  While their violence and terroristic nature did not spread like traditional terrorist organizations (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc.) within their own country they certainly participated in terroristic activity.


Beittel, J. S.  (2013, April 15).  Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations: Source and scope of the rising violence.  Congressional Research Service.

Beittel, J. S.  (2012, August 3).  Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations: Source and scope of the rising violence.  Congressional Research Service.

Finckenauer, J. O.  (2005).  “Problems of definition: What is organized crime?”  Trends in Organized Crime, Vol. 8, No. 3.

Lyman, M.D., and Potter, G.W. (2006). Organized crime (4th ed). New York: Prentice Hall.

Paoli, L. (2008). The Decline of the Italian Mafia. (D. S. Nelen, Ed.) 15-28. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-0-387-74733-0_2.


Spolar, C. (2008, July 7). Rising Mafia Emerges from Italy’s Shadows: Global Drug Traffickers Compared to Al Qaeda. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-07-07/news/0807060431_1_cosa-nostra-ndrangheta-anti

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