The American Mafia Uncovering The Five Families
The Mafia in the United States emerged in Italian immigrant neighborhoods in New York’s East Harlem (or Italian Harlem), Lower East Side, and Brooklyn. It also emerged in other areas of the East Coast of the United States and several other major metropolitan areas (such as New Orleans) during the late 19th century and early 20th Century following waves of Italian immigration, especially from Sicily and other regions of Southern Italy. It has its roots in the Sicilian Mafia, but is a separate organization in the United States. Neapolitan, Calabrian, and other Italian criminal groups in the U.S., as well as independent Italian-American criminals, eventually merged with Sicilian Mafiosi to create the modern pan-Italian Mafia in North America. Today, the American Mafia cooperates in various criminal activities with the Sicilian Mafia and other Italian organized crime groups, such as the Camorra in Naples, ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, and Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia. The most important unit of the American Mafia is that of a “family”, as the various criminal organizations that make up the Mafia are known. Despite the name of “family” to describe the various units, they are not familial groupings.
The Mafia is currently most active in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New England (primarily Boston, Providence, and, to a lesser extent, Worcester, Massachusetts), Detroit, Chicago, and various other Northeastern and Midwestern cities; with smaller families, associates, and crews in places such as Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. There have been at least 26 cities around the United States with Cosa Nostra families, with many more offshoots, splinter groups, and associates in other cities. There are five main New York City Mafia families, known as the Five Families: the Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo families. At its peak, the Mafia dominated organized crime in the U.S. Each crime family operates independently, while nationwide coordination is provided by the Commission, which consists of the bosses of each of the strongest families.
Today, most of the Mafia’s activities are contained to the Northeastern United States and Chicago, where they continue to dominate organized crime, despite the increasing numbers of other crime groups.