A crime family is a term used to describe a unit of an organized crime syndicate, often operating within a specific geographic territory. The term is used almost exclusively to refer to units of the Mafia, both in Sicily and in the United States, although it is occasionally used to refer to other groups.
The origins of the term come from the Sicilian Mafia. In the Sicilian dialect, the word cosca, which literally translates into artichoke (a multi-layered vegetable surrounding a vital core), is also used for clan. In the early days of the Mafia, loose groups of bandits organized themselves into associations that over time became more organized, and they adopted the term based on both of its meanings.
As the Mafia was imported into the United States in the late 19th century, the English translation of the word cosca was more at clan or family.
The term can be a point of confusion, especially in popular culture and Hollywood, because in the truest sense, crime families are not necessarily blood families who happen to be involved in criminal activity, and not necessarily based on blood relationships.
It can further be speculated that the Mafia was simply emulating, to a certain degree, a more medieval order in which a noble family would more or less serve as the power in a local village, in a sort of inverted hacienda culture.
The Calabrian 'Ndrangheta is, however, purported to be organized along familial lines.
Nevertheless, the term stuck, both in the minds of popular culture as well as the national law enforcement community, and eventually began to be used to describe individual units of not only Sicilian gangsters, but those whose origins lie in other parts of Italy (e.g., the aforementioned 'Ndrangheta, the Neapolitan Camorra, etc.).
Sometimes the term is used to describe distinct units of crime syndicates of other ethnic and national origin, such as the Irish Mob, Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, Colombian drug cartels, and the Russian Mafiya.
American Mafia crime familiesEdit
- New York has five families. These families, together with several powerful members of Jewish-American organized crime, established the Commission in the 1930s. This ruling board was established shortly after the end of the bloodiest war in the history of the New York Mafia, the Olive Oil War. One of its most famous founders was Vito Corleone, who became the most powerful member of the Commission after ordering the murder of Salvatore Maranzano.
- The Five Families are:
- Chicago is the home of the Chicago Outfit, the direct descendant of the Prohibition-era gang run by iconic crime boss Al Capone. The most powerful Mafia family outside of New York, the Outfit also controls rackets throughout much of the Midwest, and once controlled many of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas.
- Philadelphia is the home base of the Greco family, which also has interests in much of South Jersey, especially Atlantic City.
- Florida is the home of the Drago family, a small family named for its two most notable former bosses, Vittorio Drago and Salvatore Drago. It holds most of its influence in Tampa and Miami, the latter of which is considered an "open territory" by the Mafia at large.
- New Orleans is the home of the Tramonti family. Its most notable leader was Carlo Tramonti, who is perhaps most famous for his role in the CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, and his prominent placement in the assassination of President James Shea.
- Cleveland is the home of the Forlenza family. Originally recognized when it was led by Vincent Forlenza, the family has been removed from the Commission after the death of its leader.