Students Staff

14 August 2015

Former secret Mafia files hold clues for crime fighting in the 21st century

town in Italy

Declassified data on 800 members of the American Mafia from 1960 could offer new insight into the fight against the organised crime networks of today.

A new study from the University of Essex has analysed historical evidence from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in order to prove that individual connections are the building blocks of secret, criminal organisations and that the tracking and analysing of these connections leads to a greater understanding of who is important within that organisation’s hierarchy and their predicted level of criminal activity - potentially vital information for law enforcers.

Conducted by Dr Giovanni Mastrobuoni from the Department of Economics, the study, published in The Economic Journal, uses economic theory to link the network position of Mafia members to an economic measure of their success, namely the value of the house or apartment where they were presumed to reside.

Speaking of his findings, Dr Mastrobuoni said: “Organisations like the Mafia are complicated. It’s not necessarily the people at the top who are making all the money – or, if they are, they may be finding ways to hide it.

“The top guy may be living in a downtrodden house as a deliberate ploy to avoid suspicion, whilst the more active members in the middle of the hierarchy may have the most connections, be doing the most ‘business’ and living in the bigger houses. It’s about using the connections of all those individuals in order to build a picture of the organisation and how it’s working.”

The 800 Mafia members featured in this study, which equate to a large majority of the firm’s most important figures, were active just before the newly appointed Attorney General Robert F Kennedy waged his first concentrated attack on the American Mafia in 1961.

In the 54 years since that crackdown it is widely accepted that the Mafia has continued to follow the same rules.

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

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