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The Mafia has been immortalized in pop culture by movies like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas" and in the TV series "The Sopranos." However, despite the romantic connotations that may be evoked, the Mafia is a very real and very deadly crime phenomenon. The Mafia has its roots in feudal times, when armed groups were hired by feudal lords to protect their estates in exchange for protection from royal authority. They eventually came to be known for their familial ties and structure, violence, and codes of silence. Common mafia activities included infiltrating and/or manipulating local authorities, extortion, and terrorism. The Mafia continued to grow in power and influence in the 20th Century, expanding even into the United States with the large Italian emigration. The Mafia began to be involved in narcotics trade (especially heroin), gambling, prostitution, labor racketeering, as well as some legal activities such as trucking and construction. In the 1980s the Italian government began to increase its efforts to crack down on Mafia activity with harsher prison sentences and increased arrests. There were also a series of political scandals linking many high-ranking Italian politicians with Mafia activity. The crackdown was initially greeted with an increase in bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations, and while there has been somewhat of a recent decline in Mafia activity, most seem to think that the Mafia is still alive and well.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:17 ZULU