How much does extortion cost? Quantifying the economic weight of criminal activity

March 17, 2017
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“You went to school, you know how to count?” asked Luigi Lo Cascio while portraying Peppino Impastato while speaking to his brother Giovanni in one of the most famous scenes of the film I cento passi. What he was asking him to count were the steps that separated their house from that of their uncle Tano, the town’s boss and a member of the local mafia. Peppino Impastato was asking his brother to quantify, to give him a number, on how close the mafia was to them.

In The cost of illegality: a research programme, Antonio La Spina, Giacomo di Gennaro (Federico II University, Napes) and their team attempted to quantify the so-called cost of crime. Studies of the sector tell us that it is possible to understand the economic value of organized criminal activity by establishing precise parameters.

One must first start with the definition of the cost of crime, which in this case is divided into three main categories: costs related to crime prevention (insurance, home and office security systems, changes in behavior out of fear), costs that derive from criminal action (repairing a door or a broken lock, emotional impact, physical and mental health of the victim), and costs related to crime response (police, judges, lawyers, the penitentiary system and social services).

A follow up to previous research in Sicily, this study focuses on Campania, particularly on the cities and provinces of Naples and Caserta and extortion by Camorra organizations.

Using innovative analysis software it was possible to obtain very interesting data. In particular, focusing solely on extortion, the research team discovered that this type of criminal activity accounts for approximately 2% of the areas’ GDPs.

With further development, this analytic method can surely be useful to field agents in combatting this type of crime.

Tags crime, law

“The cost of Illegality: a research programme”

The author

Antonio La Spina is Full Professor of Sociology of Law as well as Analysis and Evaluation of Public Policy at LUISS University


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