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

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law