Organized Crime Research Brief no. 16 - Mobility of OC: Cammora

Organized Crime Research Brief no. 16 - Mobility of OC: Cammora PDF Version (48 KB)

Organized crime groups that are predatory or provide an illicit good or service transpose their operations differently, and for different reasons. Varied types of movement - of individuals, branches, or headquarters - require separate consideration.

In 2010, Morselli, Turcotte, and Tenti wrote a report on The Mobility of Criminal Groups, for Public Safety Canada. The report reviewed several case studies and prior commentaries and, based on an inductive, evidence-based process, offered a conceptual framework for understanding how organized crime groups come to establish themselves, successfully or unsuccessfully, in places outside of their area of origin.

The purpose of this report was to test framework of Morselli, Turcotte, and Tenti against a recent case study on the movement of a Camorra crime group from Campania (Italy) to Scotland and the Netherlands. According to the framework of Morselli et al., two separate types of factors underlie the mobility of criminal groups: (i) push factors, which 'refer to a force which drives criminal groups away from a setting'; and (ii) pull factors, which 'refer to forces which draw criminal groups to a setting'. The author of the present report identified and addressed some limitations of this framework, and presented some suggestions for the development of an enhanced version.

This report found that Morselli et al's push and pull framework is a relevant analytical tool for understanding the factors underlying the mobility of criminal groups, but it should be refined to take into account the nature of a given criminal group and the nature of the movement. A distinction needs to be made here between purely predatory groups and groups that may provide some kind of illicit good or service. As regards to the nature of the movement, a distinction is made between three different types: (i) the movement of one or a few members over a limited period of time; (ii) the opening up of a branch in the new locale; and (iii) the moving of headquarters, boss and common funds from the old to the new locale. The nature of both the group and its movement may have a substantial impact on the type of push and pull factors, and should be taken into account. It is therefore crucial to redefine the framework including those specifications to better grasp the variety of the push and pull factors that may operate in the underworld. Push and pull factors may interact and should not be viewed as mutually exclusive.

An analysis of the movement of a Camorra criminal group (the 'La Torre' clan) from Italy to Scotland and the Netherlands demonstrated that push and pull factors may interact. Criminals may be pushed to leave a given territory, and at the same time, they may choose a new area according to the expected licit and illicit opportunities. In the La Torre case, particular pull factors played a role. For the migration to Scotland the pull factors were the lack of Anti-Mafia legislation and the powerlessness of the Italian authorities to extradite any suspect and the presence of a fairly vibrant economy, driven by the oil and gas industry operating offshore in Aberdeen. For Amsterdam, the pull factors were the strategic location of the city at the intersection of many drug trafficking routes, the presence in situ of criminal brokers involved in trafficking of drugs and other illegal goods, and the presence of other entrepreneurs originally from the same region of Italy.

The study also showed that Mafia groups tend to be highly localized and dependent on their territory of origin. Moving a protection racket is not an easy task and is a fairly rare occurrence. Rather, instances of diversification seem to be much more frequent. This does not imply that the diversification process does not have any impact on the economies of the new areas, but simply that the same phenomenon may appear in different forms depending on the area.

The review of the push and pull framework outlined by Morselli et al and the empirical analysis of the movement of a Camorra group revealed the following: (i) economic sectors in which the share of untraceable transactions is high should be monitored closely, since they may be at risk of money laundering; (ii) investments of illegal proceeds in the legal economy may be difficult to trace, especially when the crime and the investment are carried out in different countries, thus suspicious business practices should be monitored closely; (iii) a given territory may be made less attractive by sending credible signals to criminals about the willingness of local authorities to combat crime, and by promptly reacting to any attempt to seize a criminal opportunity made by a certain group; and (iv) given the fact that criminal groups may diversify their activities and operational strategies, there is a need to develop a diversified response by authorities.

It was also noted that unlike many popular accounts, strategic behaviour should not be overestimated. However, it still plays a role, particularly in the case of purely predatory groups. Future research could provide a more detailed examination of the movement patterns of predatory groups and could contrast these with groups that supply illegal goods and services.

Finally, the report concluded that when dealing with groups involved in the supply of illegal goods or services, measures may be taken in order to ensure that demand and supply meet at a higher equilibrium price, thus reducing the number of potential customers.

Note: This report was part of a series of three papers by European experts on the migration of criminal groups, who reviewed a framework proposed by Morselli, et al. The framework outlining the push and pull factors in the mobility of criminal networks can be found in Research Brief number 4.

Camapana, Paolo. (2010) A Response to “The Mobility of Criminal Groups”: A Reflection in Light of Recent Research on the Functional Diversification of a Camorra Clan. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada.

Morselli, Carlo, and Mathilde Turcotte, with Valentina Tenti. (2010) The Mobility of Criminal Groups. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada.

For more information on organized crime research at Public Safety Canada, please contact the Organized Crime Research Unit at

Organized Crime Research Briefs are produced for Public Safety Canada and the National Coordinating Committee on Organized Crime (NCC). The NCC and its Regional/Provincial Coordinating Committees work at different levels towards a common purpose: creating a link between law enforcement agencies and public policy makers to combat organized crime. Organized Crime Research Briefs supports NCC research objectives by highlighting evidence-based information relevant for the consideration of policy-development or operations.  The summary herein reflect interpretations of the report authors' findings and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Public Safety Canada or the National Coordinating Committee on Organized Crime.

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