The Mafioso in Uxbridge: Don't be surprised. Mafia dons make the best neighbours...

Why godfathers like to make a good impression

Share
Related Topics

Whatever Domenico Rancadore may have done in his career in organised crime, his neighbours in suburban London considered him an exemplary chap. He wore good suits, after all, so he must have a job. And he drove such a variety of high performance cars, they thought he might be a chauffeur. The only person living on his street who reports having a problem with Rancadore objected to his planting an enormous hedge around his property. But that, said the man known to his neighbours as Marc Skinner, was non-negotiable.

Mafia bosses do, in fact, make good neighbours. Any district under Mafia control has a low to non-existent crime rate because they do not wish to attract the attention of law enforcement. People always say you can leave your car unlocked in Corleone, as no one would dare take anything from it. Any crime committed in the boss's territory is done on his orders alone.

When Bernardo Provenzano was a young man in Corleone, he and his buddies were caught rustling cattle from a local farmer. They came under fire from the Mafia boss – he alone had the right to steal livestock.

The Mafia also runs an effective neighbourhood watch scheme. The ruling family has spies everywhere, from the corner shop to the town hall. Women in particular fulfil this role effectively, since they are considered harmless gossips, and nothing escapes their attention. In Calabria, when many of the major bosses were on the run from the police or their Mafia enemies, their wives would keep them informed of everyone else's movements by shortwave radio. An apparently harmless chat outside the bar with a member of a rival family could cost a man his life, if the boss's wife decided he must have changed sides.

Although it may seem unlikely, the Mafia has a keen sense of the importance of public relations. This is another reason a mafioso makes a good neighbour. The Mafia can only function if the local population is compliant. A boss in hiding, for example, needs to be able to rely on his neighbours not to report his presence to the authorities.

When a mafioso collects protection money from a small business in his jurisdiction, it's not the amount of money that is significant, it's the gesture. That gesture means patronage: it means the shopkeeper, or fisherman, or taxi driver, recognises the mafioso as his master. One of the successful strategies of Bernardo Provenzano when he became a senior mafioso was to make sure his capos were not charging extortionate rates.

When a local businessman refuses to pay his monthly Mafia tax, it sends a dangerous message: that the Mafia is no longer in charge. The anti-Mafia movement Addiopizzo ("goodbye protection") was launched with a poster campaign and the message: "If you pay protection you're also handing over your dignity."

A single businessman who refuses to pay risks having his building site vandalised. Shopkeepers have had their metal security shutters disabled with superglue poured into the locks. But a whole group of small businesses banding together sends a powerful message back to the Mafia. They're not going to blow up the whole neighbourhood, so they need to find another way to get people on side.

The Mafia boss sets himself up as community leader. He is the go-to guy for anyone out of a job, or whose son needs a place at college. The Italian civil justice system is so cumbersome that any small businessman with a grievance will waste 10 or 15 years, and most of his income, trying to sort it out through the courts. The Mafia boss can help him find a settlement overnight. In some instances, the boss will dispense advice about marriages, or settle disputes between neighbours.

The mafioso's nickname is indicative of his respected standing: how much better to be u professore (the teacher) than u pazzo (the madman) or even u curtu (shorty). Toto "Shorty" Riina, the boss of Corleone, was feared and obeyed, but never loved. His joint chief of staff, Provenzano, was known as u ragioniere' (the accountant) because he was a decent business strategist. He insisted his capos keep local businesses loyal. "It's no good making people fear you," he wrote in one of his famous letters. "You have to make them respect you."

Rancadore, with his quiet ways and his sharp suits, knew a thing or two about respect.

Clare Longrigg blogs at mafiology.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable