This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
Until recently, as part of an anti-Mafia campaign Naples's Piazza del Plebiscito palace had been covered in massive posters displaying the faces of organized crime–related murder victims. The initiative—called #noninvano (not in vain)—included pictures of some of the people murdered in grisly revenge killings as well as innocents unlucky enough to have been caught in the crossfire. Lately, because of the slaying of 17-year-old Genny Cesarano in a city -enter shootout, a lot of people have begun talking about a new wave of young Mafia members.
Like most young Italians, boys in Naples spend their days texting their mates and driving around on scooters, but unlike most teenagers a lot of them have also become involved with the local criminal organization—the Camorra. The problem of "young Camorrists" is not a recent one. Thirty years ago, Giancarlo Siani—a Neapolitan journalist killed by the Mafia—wrote his last piece on the kids employed by the local criminal system. "They're called muschilli [little flies] – drug-dealers and young couriers. They work as intermediaries, only taking on minor roles. Drug kingpins use them to keep themselves out of trouble," he wrote. Back then, they were practically invisible, or rather hiding in plain sight. They were also pretty disposable.
Today, the muschilli no longer exist, or at least not in the same way. Young people are far more involved in the gangs and have attained higher ranks. A good example is Pasquale Sibillo, born in 1991, who allegedly already heads up a gang of his own. As the brother of a murdered Mafia boss, his acolytes look up to him and the last time somebody tried to kill him he escaped by jumping into a police car. He is the epitome of a young Camorrista, the kind of guy who talks about his gun in the same way he talks about his girlfriend.
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In the past, you had to be of a minimum age to rise through the ranks and you needed the courage to carry out 'o piezzo—murder. Once you had worked your way up, the Camorra would find you a job for life and offer their loyalty in return. Back then, the Mafia had employees, while today those working for the Camorra feel more like freelancers. As the recruitment process gets quicker, gangs and clans become increasingly fragmented and end up fighting over every single street. This has led to a new culture of smaller gangs and opportunistic criminals threatening the establishment.
In Rione Traiano, the situation has become critical—the neighborhood can now boast the highest number of shootings in Naples. In fact, it's known for specializing in drive-by scooter slayings. For days at a time, you can hear the sound of gunshots ringing out around the area. It's as if the more weapons the police seize, the more end up on the streets.
The authorities are struggling to keep the rising levels of violence under control. The severity of the situation was made clear in a report by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department (DIA), released at the end of 2014: "A variety of groups have widely infiltrated the region and a widespread criminal system is deeply rooted in the area, operating with disproportionate violence with respect to its objectives." It went on: "The situation deeply endangers public order… often through the actions of criminals belonging to the new generation. Among the key players are the descendants of powerful local families who had only apparently been weakened by arrests and defectors."
In last January's report, the DIA pinned down these new criminals even more precisely, pointing out ongoing feuds "both in suburban areas and in the heart of the city, in the North and East of Naples."
There's plenty of evidence for this generational shift. Last June about 60 youngsters affiliated to the Giuliano, Sibillo, Brunetti, and Almirante families were arrested. They were ruling over an area stretching a little over a square mile from the Forcella to the Maddalena districts. Investigators found that this cartel, who had already gained a "monopoly over the illegal activities in the centre of Naples," was made up of "very young members from well-established criminal families."
This younger generation of criminals has a different way of doing business, which is currently proving almost impossible for authorities to tackle. The Italian anti-Mafia intelligence wrote in a report that "the new establishment has a devastating impact on any possible counter-operation, which is made particularly difficult by the unpredictability of their actions—which seem to follow no rationality."
Last Monday, the Italian Anti-Mafia Commission, headed by Rosy Bindi of Italy's Democratic Party, gathered in Naples to discuss the problem. During their first day of hearings with police, prosecutors and various anti-Mafia groups, the commission made a major slip-up. "The Camorra are an integral part of this city," said Bindi, provoking outrage from those who fight everyday to rid Naples of institutionalized crime.
Clearly, Bindi had meant that the Mafia are currently a huge part of life in the city, and that had to change. But that didn't stop one local asking, "If politicians think Naples means Camorra, what are they here for?"
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