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New Research Finds Mafia Group Violence ‘Contagious’ And Three Times More Likely Among Members

Study published in Journal of Quantitative Criminology shows violent behavior spreads like a contagion within organized crime groups.

Group violence is ‘contagious’ amongst members of the mafia, according to new research.

The gangsters are three times more likely to commit further violence with other members than they are on their own, suggest the findings.

The study, published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, shows that violence spreads around the mafia groups ‘like a contagion’ as it’s easier to justify when others around you are doing the same thing.

The culture of violence subscribed to by organized crime groups is well known and has been serialized in films and TV shows including “The Godfather”, “Goodfellas”, “The Sopranos” and “Gomorrah”.

The gangsters are three times more likely to commit further violence with other members than they are on their own, suggest the findings. PHOTO BY CAIQUE ARAUJO/PEXELS

But researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) and its research center Transcrime in Italy, sought answers on the influence of group violence on the committal of further offenses.

The researchers used data about the criminal careers of nearly 10,000 Italians convicted of organized crime over the past 50 years, having been given special permission to use the data from the Italian Ministry of Justice.

Data relating to 178,427 final convictions of offenders found to be part of the mafia, including the year of the crime commission, the type of offense, and whether the crime was committed in cooperation with others, was also used.

The gangsters are three times more likely to commit further violence with other members than they are on their own, suggest the findings. PHOTO BY CAIQUE ARAUJO/PEXELS

The oldest offender in the data set was born in 1927 and the youngest in 1994, while the vast majority (80 percent) were born between 1950 and 1980.

Of the 9,819 offenders, just 173 were women. The earliest offence was committed in 1964 and the most recent in 2016.

The crimes were coded as violent if they fell under one of the categories of assault and violent offenses, murder, and robbery.

Violent co-offending was around four times more frequent in the data set than violent solo offending.

Those who carried out violent acts with others were more than three times as likely to do the same in the future compared to those who committed their violent crime on their own, the researchers found.

Violent co-offenders were also found to be 14.2 percent more likely to commit a violent offense in the next period, compared to 4.9 percent in violent solo offenders.

A violent initial offense and the earlier in the criminal’s life the offenses occurred also increased the probability of committing future violence.

Dr. Cecilia Meneghini, of the University of Exeter, suggested violence was easier to justify when committed with others.

She said: “Our research shows the importance of the presence of other people in the way members of the mafia behave.

“This has been seen in research about other offenders. Now, we have found it is also true for those involved in organized crime.

“The dynamics of violence spreads around the mafia-like a contagion.

“People may be goading each other on, giving each other more motivation to be violent.

“They may know it’s morally wrong but it’s easier to justify when everyone is doing the same – and we see an impact of these rationalizations on future offending behavior too.”

The researchers suggest their study proves that being part of a criminal gang may create a ‘persistent, dynamic diffusion or responsibility which encourages future violent crimes in cooperation with others’.

Dr. Francesco Calderoni, from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, added that the results challenged the idea that violence in groups spreads to the actions of individuals.

“Our study reveals that group-based violent actions have a stronger impact on future violence than solo violence,” he said.

“While both group and solo past violence lead to more group violence later, only solo past violence predicts future solo violence.

“This challenges the idea that violence in groups spreads to individual actions.

“Of course, organized crime is more likely to involve multiple offenders.

“Mafia groups provide a social environment favorable to co-offending.

“Joining the mafia impacts the individual’s social status and self-perception and triggers criminally-relevant obligations and relations.

“These include co-offending and especially violent co-offending.

“Collective violence has a functional, rational connotation within mafia groups.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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