Violence among mafia members ‘contagious’ like a virus

EXETER, United Kingdom — Somewhere, Tony Soprano may need to see another doctor. International researchers have found that violence among members of the Italian mafia mimics the spread of a disease. Their study reveals that individuals who commit violent acts as part of a group are significantly more likely to engage in future violence compared to those who act alone.

This discovery sheds new light on the behavioral patterns of organized crime offenders, indicating a “persistent and long-lasting” effect of group violence on future actions. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime in Italy, analyzed the criminal careers of 9,819 individuals convicted of organized crime in Italy, utilizing exclusive data provided by the Italian Ministry of Justice.

Their findings indicate a stark difference in the likelihood of committing future violent offenses based on whether the initial violent act was committed alongside others or alone.

“Our research shows the importance of the presence of other people in the way members of the mafia behave,” says study author Dr. Cecilia Meneghini, from the University of Exeter, in a media release. “This has been seen in research about other offenders, now we have found it is also true for those involved in organized crime.”

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International researchers have found that violence among members of the mafia mimics the spread of a disease. (Photo by Artem Budaiev from Unsplash)

The study highlights how the dynamics of violence within the mafia operate similarly to a contagion, with individuals potentially encouraging each other to partake in violent acts. This group dynamic not only facilitates the rationalization of violence but also significantly impacts the offenders’ future behavior.

The analysis revealed that individuals who participated in violent acts with others were more than three times as likely to commit violent offenses in the future, compared to their solo-offending counterparts. Specifically, those involved in group violence were 14.2 percentage points more likely to engage in violence again, while solo offenders had only a 4.9 percentage point likelihood of repeating such actions. Additional factors, such as committing a violent first offense, starting criminal activities at an earlier age, and being younger, also contributed to an increased probability of future violence.

The study’s data encompassed 178,427 final convictions, shedding light on the prevalence of co-offending within mafia activities, which was found to be four times more frequent than solo offenses. The research spanned a wide range of offenders, with the oldest born in 1927 and the youngest in 1994, and the majority born between 1950 and 1980. Out of the nearly 10,000 offenders studied, only 173 were women, indicating the male-dominated nature of organized crime in Italy.

“Our study reveals that group-based violent actions have a stronger impact on future violence than solo violence,” notes study author Dr. Francesco Calderoni, from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime. “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.”

Drs. Meneghini and Calderoni underscore the importance of understanding the social and psychological underpinnings of organized crime, offering potential insights into strategies for preventing the spread of violence within these networks.

The study is published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

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  1. Mafiosi eliminating each other is splendid. Let us hope it it a trend until the garbage is all gone.

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