Is "Mafia Justice" A Good Thing?

Recent threads about the “GODFATHER” movie and novel (by Mario Puzo) have prompted me to ask: “is Mafia Justice a good thing”? I used to work with a guy who originally lived in the Queens, NY neighborhood where the mafia boss John Gotti lived. he said that the area was completely free of petty crime-nobody had to lock their doors, and cars were never stolen. According to him, a few punks came into the neighborhood once, and slashed some car tires. Gotti’s men caught them, and beat them within an inch of their lives! xNeedless to say, they never came back!Other examples: a church was robbed of its communion service (these are usually gold or silver chalices). Gotti put the word out, and the objects were returned-the word was that they had beetr be returned…or the perps wopuld be dead! Granted, the Mob can be brutal-but if you lived in an inner-city area plagued with crime, I would bet you would welcome the Mafia.Puzo used this theme as well-remember Amerigo Bonasera-the undertaker whose daughter was raped and assaulted? Don Vito took care of them (a crooked judge released both of them).Anybody have personal experience with “mafia justice”?

This sounds a bit like the way Germany, and perhaps Italy, were run in 1930s. Not too much crime, everything was efficient and clean, etc. This came with a price that I for one would not be willing to consider.

Er, did your friend give any thought at all to the possibility that Gotti and Co. may have been part of the reason why crime was so high in other neighborhoods?

I don’t think many people can really get behind the idea of vigilantism by persons who make their own living through crime.

I am skeptical as to what extent these stories are true altogether. The church story specifically, I remember reading in Joe Bonnanno’s autobiography - he told of a remarkably similar incident that he was the hero of.

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn is reputed to be full of mobsters, and I don’t recall the crime rate there being noticably different than other neighborhoods of similar socio-economic status.

Of course, that’s total crap, which sort of makes the rest of the argument an irrelevance. Your buddy was either misremembering the truth or was exaggerating for effect.


Did he mention how many of the business owners enjoyed paying protection money? The Mob has unfairly gained a reputation for being honorable particularly in ye good old days. There really weren’t any good old days. Even in the past they had a habit of bumping people off, extorting innocent store owners, and trading in drugs and alcohol.

There is some seed of truth to what you say though. I recall reading about some gang bangers in Chicago who put the word out that it wasn’t acceptable to hassle or attack certain people who came into their neighborhood. It wasn’t done out of the goodness of their hearts mind you. It was done because harassing all those white suburban kids who came into town to buy drugs would be bad for business.


Peoples view of the Mafia is a very interesting subject. It is very easy (and true) to say: They are criminals. They hurt (sometimes murder)people. They steal. They lie. They don’t pay taxes. All in all a pretty ugly picture . . .

Yet we are attracted to them as a culture. Mob movies do wonderfull at the box office for the most part. Soprano’s is one of the most popular show’s on TV. What is it that we find acceptable (even desireable) about these brutal criminals?

They completely disregard legal authority. Most of us bend to some sort of authority (work, laws) every day, even if we might be happier breaking away from that authority. So to see people who take their lives in their hands on their terms, (not societies or governments) is attractive. Not only do they do this, they profit greatly from it. To be your own boss, make your own decisions, not work, and be wealthy is a position I would not mind being in. But it does not come without risks. Risk of going to jail, risk of getting wacked. Basically, it could all come down around one at any moment. Without careful balance and precautions, a mobster isn’t a mobster very long. Add on top of that the idea of a “Code” of behavior. Defend the little old lady, help out the locals, keep your mouth shut, don’t lie to other mobsters.

So you’ve got people with no regard for authority (outside it’s own structure), making a ton of dough and risking there lives, with their very own moral code. Attractive, I must admit. But none of it (including Mob Justice) is really good. In the end the idea is more attractive then the realities. They turn out to be stupid, lieing, cheating, ratting, bullies. Usually not even qualified at anything except theft. They are definately not qualified to enforce justice. Then again, niether are most cops here in New York, but two wrongs doesn’t make a right.

Fun to watch? Yes. But that’s just becuase people wish they didn’t have to put up with laws, and a job, and being broke. The reality, I think, is alot more than people can handle. You may root for them when you hear a story of a rapist getting beat down, but what if it was the wrong guy. That’s why we have courts. To make sure the punishment is applied properly to the correct person. And physically beating someone is cruel and not any fun to see in real life (boxing aside).

Ahhhhh fageddaboutit.

DaLovin’ Dj

It depends on your value system. I see it as replacing one form of crime with another. Difference is, you don’t care because the crime isn’t happening to you - unless you happen to get on some capo’s bad side.

Mafiosi are not nice men. I tend to think that they lack any empathy for their fellow humans. If they had any, they wouldn’t kill, ordering killings, extort, sell drugs, etc. for a living. Due to a lack of empathy they have no qualms about committing crime, so long as it benefits them. When considering an action, all they are concerned about is, “Is this going to benefit me?”. The questions, “Will this hurt someone else?” or, “Is this morally acceptable?” never enter their minds, because it doesn’t matter.

For example; Gotti wasn’t such a sweetie to his neighbors because he loved them. He was a sweetie because he knew that it would get them on his side (i.e. "How could they say Mr. Gotti ordered those guys whacked? He throws us a Fourth of July party every year!). That’s what he wanted, that’s what he got.

He also wanted to be the don back in the ‘80’s, so he had Paulie Castellano whacked outside Sparks’. He wanted to be Don, he got to be Don. Nevermind the fact that Castellano’s family would be hurt by this. (Btw, I’m not defending Castellano, he was a snake as well.) So there ya go. Mafia vs. other crime is 6 vs. 1/2 dozen.

The choice is freedom vs security. If you want to live in a crime-free area, where you can leave your doors unlocked etc, you will necessarily sacrifice a number of freedoms – such as the right to fair trail, to name just one.

When I was in Santiago, Chile, back in 1986 or so, my friend said that I could anywhere in the city, any time of day or night, with no fear of crime. The police shoot suspected muggers on the spot.

This did NOT make me feel more secure.

The economic impact of mafia crime is pretty great. Lets not forget about the drugs, gambling, prostitution and extortion. and about what happens to Joe Citizen should he happen to interfere with one of those enterprises.

I watched ‘the Godfather’ again just yesterday, and was taken by surprise how they all but sainted this character. If you want to see an example of ‘mafia justice’ in this series, see ‘Godfather 2’. Pay attention to the scene where they drug the senator, kill the prostitute he visits regularly, and convince him that he killed her and only the ‘family’ can help him.
BTW, anybody know of a poor area in NYC or Jersey that’s as crime-free as the OP suggests?

CK Dexter: I agree with the spirit of your post, but I do have one quibble. Unless I misunderstood, you seem to indicate that neighborhoods where mafiosi live are crime free. However, I don’t think that living with Mafia influence in town leads to a crime free environment at all.

Let’s say you own a jewelry shop in town for 40 years, built from the ground, etc. It’s a sucessful shop - you’re not rich, but you’re comfortable. One day, a mafioso moves into your neighborhood, takes notice of the nice business you’re doing. Boom. Next thing you know, you’re paying protection money. That’s crime in your neighborhood. I admit, it’s not “street crime”, per se, but it is crime and does affect the neighborhood as a whole.

dalovindj says:

It seems to me that the issue isn’t that they are “beyond” or “above” the law, but that they get to make their own laws. Not to sound too cynical, but paying “protection” to the Mob doesn’t sound too different in principle from paying taxes to the government. (Note that they tend to be quite different in effect, but the underlying principle is the same, I think.)

In America, we often romanticise people who get to make their own laws. Colonists, cowboys, pirates, and pioneers are all idolized along with anyone rich or ruthless enough to go their own way.

IMHO, what people really like about living with the Mob/Mafia/other organized crime, is that the laws they make are simple. The code of behavior excerpted above is easy to remember; it makes an intuitive sort of sense that the United States legal code doesn’t. On some level “pay 15% or Vinnie breaks your kneecaps,” is easier to understand and therefore somewhat more comforting than going through an IRS audit.

The notion that Mafiosi are chivalrous, noble sorts, guided by a code of “honor” is absurd. If you buy into this myth, you’ve obviously watched “The Godfather” too many times. As an antidote, watch “Goodfellas,” and see what the Mafia is REALLY like.

RREAL mob bosses are not cultured, gentle souls like Vito Corleone. They’re violent street thugs and hoodlums like John Gotti. Gotti, you’ll recall, got his start as a truck hijacker and armed robber.

So… to those who think that living in a Mob-controlled neighborhood makes you “safer,” isn’t armed robbery one of the things you’d like to be protected FROM?

Could you elaborate on what that principal may be?

Yah, sure.
Bear in mind please that I’m being intentionally simplistic here to try and draw a very loose comparison.

Pay taxes -> gov’t pays army -> don’t get invaded by Canada
Don’t get arrested by the IRS
Pay protection -> Mob scares others -> no competition
Kneecaps stay intact
Each group (gov’t and Mob) uses carrot (services provided) and stick (punishments), in different proportions and forms, to get money out of people and businesses.

As I see it:

             |    Pro           |       Con
             |   Safe           |     Complex
Gov't        |   Predictable    |     Impersonal
             |   Participatory  |
             |   Hands On       |     Violent
Mob          |   Responsive     |     Unpredictable
             |   Simple         |

Clearly, one is preferable (to me) but I’m not entirely without sympathy for the other (mostly though). I hope that explains what I was getting at. Feel free to add or subtract from my little table (I think that came out nicely :slight_smile: )