In every society, there are some forms of social crimes ranging from minor to major such as from theft to robbery to drug, human and arms trafficking to murders. Consequently, social crimes not only lead to killings of people but also brought innumerable socio-economic harms through a variety of means. Alternatively speaking, social crimes enormously affect people’s socio-economic conditions. Of course, social crimes can be organized and non-organized. Different groups are responsible for social crimes in a country. Of diverse groups, mafia or mafia-type organizations is a significant crime group. Even if its influence has reduced much in recent years, mafia or cartel — a secret network of organized-crime groups — is still a major cause of concern in the world.
It is, of course, undeniable that mafia or mafia-type organizations currently exist in many countries in the world. Mafia has international, regional and national or local level activities, with some variations. Mafias are at times involved with the killings of diverse groups of people in different countries. Moreover, mafias are engaged with a wide variety of social problems including extortion, drug trafficking, weapon trafficking, usury, fraud, robbery, illegal gambling, illegal immigration trafficking, controlling markets and others. Without any doubt, such activities put a significant hindrance to the desired socio-economic progression of different societies (though these bring benefits to those who are involved with them) and have considerable bearings across the world.
As it appears, the term ‘mafia’ was historically originated in Sicily, an island ruled until the mid-19th century by a long line of foreign invaders. At that time, Sicilians banded together in groups to protect themselves and carry out their own justice. It was initially applied to the Sicilian Mafia. Later its activities changed from protection from invaders to organized crimes in different areas of Italy and the mafia expanded to different countries to encompass other organizations of similar methods and purpose. Now the term ‘mafia’ indicates a secret criminal group of people with similar interests which allegedly engages in various criminal activities including smuggling, racketeering, human trafficking as well as trafficking in narcotics. At present, it operates at an international and local level.
In order to function effectively, mafias establish organizations with particular structures, which are sometimes considered to be vertical and horizontal. In the vertical structure, mafia organizations are characterized by the presence of higher levels of coordination, centralized power, and systemic decision-making process. In the horizontal structure, on the other hand, mafia and/or mafia-type organizations are characterized by the absence of higher levels of coordination, and they have distributed or decentralized power and decision-making process. As it appears, a mafia organization with a vertical structure involves hierarchy and command and has more influence in its territory. Most mafias are operative in vertical but a few are horizontal. But all mafias usually have a code of conduct — omerta — for affiliated members.
It is undeniable that mafias appeared to be weakened in many countries at present; however, they are not eliminated and remain in their activities to date. Consequently, it turns to be difficult to successfully fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, targeted killings, etc. For ending such crimes to a larger extent, fighting against mafia and/or mafia-type organizations is very essential; otherwise, such crimes will continue and affect different countries. Of course, there are various counter-measures to the mafia, but such measures are inadequate. In this respect, more effective measures are needed for the prevention of criminal activities of mafias. Here, I will put forth a few effective measures for fighting against mafias and/or mafia-type organizations — international, regional and local.
Firstly, strong political commitment is important for fighting against the mafia. It is often criticized that mafia-type organizations work in a state keeping close relationships with powerful political leaders, who are somehow benefited by the mafia in exchange. Political leaders sometimes protect the mafia from legal persecution. Because of links with political leaders, mafia and/or mafia-type organizations can easily involve with many crimes including big corruption in a country and it becomes difficult to successfully fight against the mafia in many countries in the world. Thus, strong political commitment needs to be ensured for successfully fighting against mafia-type organizations.
Secondly, law-enforcing agency based measures need to be strengthened for countering mafia or mafia-type organizations at the local, regional and international level. In this respect, several notable concerns with law-enforcing agencies including bribery or affiliation with the mafia in drug trafficking, human trafficking and other heinous crimes need to be adequately addressed. On many occasions, as is criticized, the mafia operates through keeping relations with law-enforcing agencies in many counties. Of course, the strengths of the mafia vary from low to high; depending on the strengths of the mafia and its networks, preventing and protective measures thus need to be taken accordingly — with and without the involvement of the military, along with usual law-enforcers including police — for successfully fighting against such a group.
Thirdly, increased monitoring and regulation of markets can be very effective. As it appears, mafia and/or mafia-type organizations sometimes control both formal and informal markets such as the night time entertainment markets, drug retail markets, arms markets, bank, financial market or stock business and many other types of businesses with the creation of syndicates (although all business syndicates are not mafia affiliated) in different countries. On some occasions, the mafia can control the entire business in a locality. Even though it is easier to identify the involvement of the mafia in informal markets, it can be difficult to identify links of the mafia in a formal market without effective monitoring and regulation of economic sectors and sub-sectors.
Fourthly, emphasis must be given to international cooperation between or among states. Without international cooperation, it is indeed a difficult task to successfully fight against the mafia and/mafia-type organizations, especially transnational ones. In this respect, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted by the General Assembly in 2000, along with some other related UN protocols on trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, needs to be adequately implemented. Of course, intelligence sharing on various activities of mafia including drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal arms trafficking and human trafficking and exchange of captured mafia members from one country to another should be strengthened for effective prevention of international mafia.
Finally, reasonable space needs to be given to members of mafia groups for their coming back to normal life. In fact, everyone has the right to come back to normal life. Even though they usually do not come back to normal life, adequate policy and plans may considerably change such a situation in many countries. In this respect, the adoption of disengagement programs may be effective. In fact, disengagement measures for other criminals aiming at bringing back to normal life with rehabilitation have some success. I think that effective steps may bring some members of the mafia, especially those who are willing, to normal social life in many countries in the world.
NB: This article is a section of a book of the author entitled “Toward A Better World” that is in-press at present.