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Italy, once known for the mafia, is now one of the safest places in Europe


In Rome, Italy, once notorious for the Mafia, the country has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now hailed as one of Europe's safest nations, showcasing a murder rate significantly lower than its neighboring countries. The historical backdrop includes a period from the mid-19th century to the 1990s marked by thousands of deaths attributed to Mafia violence, involving gruesome acts such as rivals or traitors being encased in cement or fed to pigs. Additionally, Italy faced the turbulent "Years of Lead" from the late 1960s to the 1980s, characterized by acts of terrorism from extreme left and right-wing groups.

The turning point came with a concerted crackdown on organized crime, pushing the Mafias towards less violently driven financial activities. Consequently, Italy experienced a drastic reduction in its murder rate. Back in 1990, Italy reported 34 murders per million inhabitants, surpassing France's 24. Fast forward to 2021-22, and Italy's rate has dropped to 5.5 per million, outperforming France (11), Germany (8), and the UK (10). Notably, only Norway and Switzerland in Europe have murder rates lower or equal to Italy's.

Gianluca Arrighi, a criminal lawyer specializing in police novels, highlights the evolved tactics of the Mafias, operating more economically by engaging in real estate and business ventures. Organized crime is now only responsible for 10% of annual murders, reflecting a significant shift in their modus operandi.

Several factors contribute to Italy's reduced violence. Arrighi attributes it, in part, to societal goodwill, where interpersonal connections help offset life's challenges. While Italy is economically less affluent than some EU counterparts, social cohesion appears to mitigate the impact of economic disparities. The southern region of Italy, the poorest part of the country, does exhibit a higher murder rate, but Stefano Delfini, head of criminal analysis at the government's department of public security, underscores the overall less violent nature of Italian society.

Factors such as lower alcohol consumption compared to France and the UK also contribute to Italy's safety record. The country's rising awareness of femicides is evident, with 97 recorded in 2023 out of a total of 330 murders. Although harmonized data for femicides is lacking, World Bank statistics for 2021 show Italy reporting a rate of 3.9 murders of women per million people, considerably lower than France (6.8) and Germany (8.0). Italy's multifaceted approach, combining legal measures, societal cohesion, and economic shifts, has played a pivotal role in transforming it from a Mafia stronghold to one of Europe's safest havens.

Feb. 17, 2024 4:35 p.m. 2221

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