Among the most influential global organized crime groups, the Italian Mafias have long been the model for other illegal entities. The Mafias are both complex and intriguing in their associations with crime. The main groups based in Italy are the Sicilian Mafia or "Cosa Nostra," the Neapolitan Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, and the Sacra Corona Unita. The Cosa Nostra is generally perceived to be the largest and most important of these groups, and is organized around a law of silence and close associations. Relationships are partly functional, partly personal and familial, and partly based on fear, a constant within other Italian Mafia groups as well. Although the Cosa Nostra retains many of its traditional ways, it has proved to be both dynamic and adaptive.
The power of the Cosa Nostra is primarily concentrated
in southern Italy where it has sought to nullify competition between businesses
through coercion and other illegal activities. However, the Coas Nostra
has increasingly evolved into a transnational enterprise. The group has
successfully moved much of its organized criminal activities from rural
to industrial and business cultures, and from a local and national network
to an international one. This global focus has been facilitated by migration
flows, particularly to the United States, which contributed to the establishment
of the Sicilian share of the U.S. heroin market. The expansion of links
to other criminal organizations remains a major challenge to law enforcement.
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