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La Cosa Nostra in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
5 pages
This paper briefly describes the history and structure of La Cosa Nostra or LCN in the United States and responses by law enforcement to combat this form of organized crime.
La Cosa Nostra or LCN, also known as the Mafia, the mob, the outfit, or the office, is a collection of Italian-American organized crime families that have been operating in the United States since the 1920s. Becoming a member of the LCN requires serving an apprenticeship and then being propped by a Boss. This is followed by gaining approval for membership from all the other families. La Cosa Nostra established its reputation for the ruthless use of violence. Law enforcement experts indicate that the threat of violence is at the core of LCN activities. It is believed that one of the LCN’s major assets is its general business shrewdness. They are described as being entrepreneurial, opportunistic, and adaptable. They find ways to exploit market vulnerabilities, while maintaining the necessary stability and predictability that business requires to be profitable. La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities cover a wide range with gambling and drugs having been their traditional money makers. La Cosa Nostra is today much less powerful and pervasive than it was in the past. A loss of political influence has accompanied its general decline. Law enforcement has been tremendously successful in combating LCN over the past 10 years. Effective use has been made of investigative and prosecutorial techniques designed to be used against organized crime, specifically electronic surveillance, the witness protection program, and the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Two of the latest weapons against LCN penetration of sectors of the legitimate economy are regulatory initiatives. They are not law enforcement approaches per se, but administrative remedies designed to expand a local government’s ability to control public services. References

Date Published: January 1, 2000