Category Archives: Organized crime

Mayor closes historical center to cars – angers organized crime

The limited traffic zone in the Naples historical center

Anthony M. Quattrone

The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is resolutely proceeding with sweeping reforms aiming at making Naples a “normal” city.  On 22 September 2011, his city government implemented a new limited traffic zone(the acronym “ZTL” appears in the press and on the traffic signs), effectively closing automotive traffic to all non-residents in the historical city center from 07:30 to 18:00 daily. The purpose of the ZTL is to preserve the historical center, cut down on carbon emissions, improve the flow of traffic, reduce noise, eliminate illegal parking, and curb the illegal utilization of traffic lanes reserved for public transportation.  The full implementation of the ZTL in Naples will take effect at the end of October, when closed circuit television systems for monitoring the traffic flow in and out of the concerned areas and electronic governed barriers should be in place.

The immediate reaction by citizens was mixed.  While the overwhelming majority of persons interviewed by the press appeared to support the Mayor’s decision, a small group of inhabitants and merchants of the Cavone area near Piazza Dante held a demonstration on the evening of 22 September, where some protesters overturned garbage bins and blocked bus and taxi traffic for several hours.  Mayor de Magistris reacted to the protest stating that he was not going to let anyone intimidate him and that it was obvious that the decisions of the City had “touched some old accumulated mucky interests”, suggesting possible organized crime involvement in the protest.  Giuseppe Narducci, the city official responsible for security, has no doubts that “the Camorra organized the raid”. According to Francesco Nicodemo, a spokesperson for the Naples provincial federation of the Democratic Party, “it is shameful that a limited traffic zone can be boycotted by a camorra boss.  The honest Neapolitans, who are the overwhelming majority of the citizens, have once again had to suffer at the hands of the clans.”  For Nicodemo, because organized crime is challenging the State, “the civilized part of Naples, the institutions, the police forces, the parties, the associations, and all honest citizens cannot surrender: they must be even more united”.

The day after the demonstration, a group of merchants from the Piazza Dante area condemned the violence but asked the Mayor to reconsider the implementation of the new traffic limits, stating that their businesses would be heavily damaged by the traffic limits.  According to the merchants, they were set to lose about 50 percent of their business because it would be expensive and inconvenient for customers to reach the limited traffic zone for shopping.  The merchants accuse the administration of not involving all stakeholders in the decision making process and that it is underestimating the damage to the local economy.

The city in proceeding with its implementation of the limited traffic zone reinforcing local police patrols on 24 hour shifts and by adding a new bus service, number 55, which makes a circular round on the periphery of the traffic limited zone ensuring that travellers can reach all areas of the limited zone and that they can easily connect with other public transportation stations and stops.

See the map of the limited traffic zone for the historical center

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Mayor de Magistris gets tough on security

Anthony M. Quattrone

The Mayor of Naples wants more video surveillance cameras downtown (photo from "Il Mattino" on line, 12 July 2011)

The new mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, who ran on a law-and-order platform during recent city elections, is pushing to increase the number of police video surveillance cameras in several locations in the city.  The Mayor wants more cameras downtown, especially in the main port and central train station areas, where tourists have been the subject of petty and violent crime over the past months.

The mayor met on 11 July 2011 with the Prefect of Naples, Andrea De Martino, at the prefecture government building in Naples to discuss the closed circuit TV system.  According to the Prefect, the main issue is not the installation of the cameras, but their maintenance.  There is a plan to add an additional 20 cameras to the ones already installed and connected to police headquarters.  The Mayor has announced that a feed from the state police closed circuit video surveillance system will now also reach municipal police headquarters. He has also told the Prefect that the city will seek funding from the Campania Region for the maintenance of the video surveillance system.

The mayor’s push, however, is encountering some difficulty due to the intricacies of the overall Italian police system, which is composed of different forces that, at times, get into each other’s way. The mayor, a former prosecutor, only controls municipal police, whose major mission is to direct traffic, enforce parking rules, and to ensure administrative compliance on the part of commercial activities.  The state police, who are under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Carabinieri, who are part of the Ministry of Defense, perform overlapping duties with respect to security services in the city and, at times, also perform the duties of the municipal police.  The finance police, who are under the Minister of Economy and Finance, are responsible for dealing with financial crime and smuggling, but may be called to perform some of the same duties as the state police and the Carabinieri.

The Prefect, who is an official appointed by the central government, is responsible for providing security in the province under his control.  He must ensure that the activities of the Carabinieri, the state police, and the finance police are coordinated to the maximum extent possible to obtain best efficiency and to avoid misunderstandings between commanders and between units of the different security forces patrolling the territory.  The 11 July 2011 meeting between the Prefect and the Mayor will need to become a routine event if both parties are interested in providing the city with the highest level of security within existing budgetary limitations.

In Naples, municipal police have been the target of severe criticism due to their extreme tolerance of traffic and parking misbehavior on the part of particularly creative Neapolitan drivers who are notoriously allergic to traffic and parking rules and regulations.  On 1 July 2011, the mayor confirmed the appointment of the chief of municipal police, Colonel Luigi Sementa, on a fixed term contract for the next twelve months.  The mayor also announced that 106 new municipal cops had come into service and were already on the beat. The total municipal police force is now up to approximately 2,500, of which about two-thirds can be or are deployed to patrols.

The Mayor intends to use municipal police to increase the sense of security in the city on the part of citizens and tourists by increasing the number of policemen on patrols.  He also intends to have municipal police sanction violations with respect to waste management.  In particular, city police will be checking if commercial activities are respecting city deliberations regarding waste separation and the method and times for disposing of garbage.  Private citizens will also be subject to higher scrutiny on the part of city police, who will be on the lookout for the type of garbage placed on the streets and the time when citizens are dumping trash.

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Waste crisis: Naples snubbed by Northern League

Reaction by Naples Mayor engenders pride in citizenry to fight off racism from Northern League.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is flanked on his right by Stefano Calderoli, the outspoken Northern League minister who would like to use a flamethrower in Naples to resolve the garbage crisis, and on his left by the equally outspoken Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League and also a minister in the government. Both Calderoli and Bossi regularly make statements against the people of the south of Italy. (Photo from “Il Mattino” online, 3 July 2011).

Anthony M. Quattrone

The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is aiming at making Naples totally autonomous from the central government in terms of waste collection and management after that the Berlusconi government failed to come to the city’s help with an emergency decree which would have allowed Naples to export garbage to other regions.  In Italy, only special waste can be moved from one region to another, with the permission of the governor of each region, to be processed in specialized plants.  Ordinary waste cannot be transferred unless a special temporary decree is issued by the central government.  Naples needs a place to dump or process its garbage until the end of the year, when the door-to-door waste collection system and new compost sites are scheduled to be in place.

On 30 June 2011, the Berlusconi government issued a decree with numerous caveats which make the transfer of ordinary waste from Campania to other regions slow and difficult.  The decree also emphasized that all Neapolitan waste should be kept in southern Italian regions. The Berlusconi government was unable to approve a better decree because of the opposition of the Northern League ministers who hold the prime minister under check because their votes are needed to keep his government alive.

The Neapolitan daily, “Il Mattino” reported on 1 July 2011, criticism expressed by the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and by the Cardinal of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe.  The President noted that the decree basically fails to provide the city with tools to climb out of the trash emergency.  Cardinal Sepe stated that the decree offends the dignity of Naples and does not respect the rights of its citizens.  In an interview, Berlusconi defended himself stating that he does not hold the 51% of the seats in Parliament, so he must make compromises with the Northern League.  Racist comments from Northern League politicians and some journalists have abounded during the past days.  Stefano Calderoli, a Northern League minister, announced that he is willing to work on the problems in Naples by using a flamethrower, while journalist Oscar Giannino looks forward to an explosion on the part of Mount Vesuvius for Naples to become a civilized society.

Resentment in Naples against the Northern League has now reached its all-time peak, with several restaurants and stores placing notices that they refuse to serve members of the Northern League.  Several consumer groups sprung up over the Internet requesting followers to boycott northern Italian products and to “buy south”.  Even the moderate Stefano Caldoro, the President of the Campania Region and member of Berlusconi’s center right coalition, is looking for retaliatory measures against the north.  Caldoro is now seeking to conduct a special inventory regarding all toxic waste that Campania imports from the north of Italy.  The Party of the South, a small formation which is part of the original coalition that has supported Luigi de Magistris’ bid for mayor, concerned about the de facto alliance created between the Northern League and organized crime, has called for a “democratic presidium” to be formed, to include the national unions and the associations representing entrepreneurs to assist the Mayor in informing citizens on the way ahead and in getting their participation in resolving the crisis, bottom-up.  The Party has also called on the Mayor to seek the assistance of Cardinal Sepe to inform citizens through the Catholic Church’s parish system regarding what City Hall is asking all citizens to do.

In the 15 days since Luigi de Magistris has appointed his city government, Naples is well on the way to collecting remaining garbage on the streets, placing garbage in temporary transition sites. As of this morning, Naples has reduced garbage sitting on the ground from 2,500 tons to approximately 1,300, with the center of the city basically clean, while several neighborhoods in the periphery are still in critical condition and should be tackled over the next couple of days. Naples produces approximately 1250 tons per day.  The independent suburban towns of Pozzuoli, Quarto, and Giugliano are still submerged with garbage, and they were hoping that the governmental decree would also provide them with relief.  They are now looking for help from the Provincial Government president, Luigi Cesaro, who is a member of Belursconi’s political party, and from the governor of the Campania Region, Caldoro.

In Naples, the city-owned garbage collection company, Asia, is playing a major role in turning the situation around.  The mayor hired on 16 June 2011 a new president for the company, Raphael Rossi, a 35 year old expert in waste collection, processing, and recycling, who earned notoriety last year for refusing a very high bribe in Turin when he had opposed the purchase of useless waste processing equipment with tax payer’s money.  Rossi’s exemplary behavior led to the arrest of those involved in the scam.  The mayor has also has placed all garbage collection workers on 24-hour shifts and he has decided to recapitalize Asia with 43 million euro.  The influx of capital will be essential for ensuring that suppliers are paid and that the new door-to-door collection system will be in place in September for an additional 200 thousand citizens.  Currently, 146 thousand Neapolitans are served with door-to-door waste collection, and their neighborhoods have not suffered during the current garbage crises.

Mayor de Magistris, deputy mayor, Tommaso Sodano, Asia president Rossi, and Raffaele del Giudice, a very well known ecologist who currently serves as counselor with Asia, are constantly in the streets speaking with citizens and encouraging Asia workers in meeting objectives.  The mayor’s personal visit to one of the garbage truck dispatch centers at 6 a.m. on 28 June 2011 paid off with a renewed sense of direction and commitment on the part of the workers.  Del Giudice noted that the waste collection employees are working beyond the call of duty.  In several neighborhoods, citizens who are appreciating the new spirit displayed by the Asia workers have independently formed groups to assist the garbage collection workers with loading trucks with large size items.  In several parts of town, long lines have formed to dump recyclable items in the mobile ecological centers that have been dispatched throughout the city in those neighborhoods that are not yet covered by the door-to-door garbage collection system.

Mayor de Magistris and Governor Caldoro are in touch with six Regions that have expressed an interest in importing garbage from the Campania Region.  If agreements are made quickly, Naples and Campania will be able to implement garbage separation processes without needing to be concerned about mountains of garbage sitting on the streets in the heat of the summer.  If the agreements fail, or if the Northern League and organized crime are able to put up additional roadblocks, Naples and Campania will spend one of the worst summers in their history.

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Garbage crisis: Mayor fights uphill battle against Northern League and Organized Crime

Citizens protest placing Italian flag on garbage in Naples (Ansa photo, "Il Mattino", 21 June 2011)

Anthony M. Quattrone

The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is continuing his uphill battle to rid the city of thousands of tons of garbage sitting on the streets and producing an unbearable smell.  There are two major obstacles on his path.  The first is the opposition by the Northern League members of the Italian central government headed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to allow Naples and the Campania Region to transfer garbage to waste processing plants in other Regions willing to receive the trash.  The second obstacle, which is less visible but equally disruptive, is the apparent hold that organized crime appears to have on waste removal and processing operations in Campania.

Berlusconi’s government was expected to issue an executive order on 1 June 2011 providing relief to Naples and the Campania Region on the garbage front.  Opposition by four Northern League ministers, Umberto Bossi, Roberto Maroni, Roberto Calderoli, and Luca Zaia, has blocked the government from taking any action to face the emergency in Naples. This has caused significant backlash within Berlusconi’s party, where southern deputies and senators are distancing themselves from the government in Rome.  On 20 June 2011, the governor of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, who was elected with the decisive support of Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition last year, told “La Repubblica” that he was tired of the constant blackmail put up by the Northern League.  Other center-right coalition members were forced to take a stand condemning the anti-southern rhetoric coming from the North.

During the weekend, when the Northern League held its annual meet in Pontida (Bergamo), party leaders and ministers currently serving in Berlusconi’s government shouted slogans, such as “Free Padania” and “Independent Padania”, and in several cases chanted “secession” with the crowd.  The Northern League is also pressing to move several ministries from Rome to cities in the north, in an attempt to break the “Rome-centric” state, possibly triggering a quicker move towards the type of federalism that the Northern League has been hoping for.  The existence and viability of Silvio Berlusconi government is hinged on the vital support provided by the Northern League in Parliament.

While Berlusconi attempts to resolve conflict within his own government, the mayor of Naples is facing the internal battle with what seems to be a strong grip that organized crime appears to have on the waste collection and processing system.  Over the past couple of days, every time that the mayor appeared to be in control of the waste collection system, a new roadblock would come into play, ranging from someone instigating crowds to burn garbage or to dup trash in the middle of the street, to contracted companies keeping their trucks idle in garages.  When the president of the Province of Naples, Luigi Cesaro, also a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s political party, finally identified waste collection sites for temporary layover, the mayors of the towns hosting them issued ordinances blocking garbage trucks from hauling waste, while demonstrators, in the time being, put several garbage trucks on fire.

On 20 June 2011, the mayor of Naples, the president of the Region, the president of the Province met with the Prefect of Naples, who represents the central government, to work out a solution, albeit another temporary one. Today, a local agreement, brokered by the president of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, has allowed that five Campania provinces (Avellino, Benevento, Caserta, Naples, and Salerno) make their temporary layover sites available for garbage sitting on the streets of Naples and its suburbs.  This should provide immediate relief to Naples, while the new mayor gets on with his plan to increase garbage separation and modernizing the waste collection system.  As this new attempt to resolve the crisis moves along, Mayor de Magistris has warned that it is imperative to keep watch on organized crime and on all of those who wish to stop the winds of change from sweeping Naples clean.

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Naples: Change is taking place bottom-up

CLEANAP and Friarielli Ribelli volunteers in Piazza Bellini, Naples, on 11 June 2011 (Photo by Maurizio Pannico)

Citizens are on the move

Anthony M. Quattrone

The election of Luigi de Magistris as new mayor of Naples on 31 May 2011 might be having an interesting effect on the participation of Neapolitans in improving their city through a bottom-up approach. Citizens appear to be on the move on several fronts. The Mayor had promised during the election campaign that he would have paid special attention to the points of view expressed by committees and movements, with the purpose of ensuring a higher level of democratic participation in the management of the city. Several committees and movements have taken the Mayor at his word and they have already engaged him through discussions and initiatives on the ground, not even leaving him time to complete the formation of his new city government, which will be announced on 13 June 2011.

A group of fifty citizens led by Rino De Martino, who manages the Treves International bookstore, cleaned up the portico in Piazza del Plebiscito (known as Largo di Palazzo prior to the invasion of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860), cutting grass and picking up garbage under the colonnade of the San Francesco di Paola Basilica on 4 June 2011. A week later other citizens, led by a Facebook group called CLEANAP, (the group’s name comes from combining the English verb “to clean” with “Naples”, to form CLEANAP, which is pronounced like the English “clean up”) worked on Piazza Bellini, bringing it back to a spick-and-span condition, while a second group Friarielli Ribelli (“friarielli” refers to a local type of broccoli and “ribelli” means “rebels”) performed “guerilla gardening“, cutting weeds, taking care of the gardens, and planting flowers and plants in the same piazza.

Citizens are also on the move trying to get the city to put back into use equipment sitting in warehouses or simply made “inactive” through the lack of attention by city administrators and lazy citizens. Angelo Forgione of the V.A.N.T.O. movement (the acronym plays on the Italian word “pride”) is attempting to get the attention of the Mayor and city officials regarding a giant movie screen in Piazza del Plebiscito, whose existence is regularly forgotten every summer. The screen, which is placed underneath the pavement between two famous equestrian statues with the Bourbon kings of Naples, Charles III and Ferdinand IV, can be electronically raised and used for open air movies during the summer. Forgione claims that with a very small investment, the system can be brought back to life.

On the security front, citizens have been on the move giving examples that something is changing both in terms of breaking a code of silence that has too often allowed organized and petty crime to gain the upper hand, and in terms of demonstrating that the city is fundamentally inhabited by honest citizens. Since the election of the new Mayor, several criminals have been caught within a matter of hours after committing robberies against tourists or merchants. On 2 June 2011, a couple of thieves stole clothes in the fashionable Barbaro boutique in the central Galleria Umberto, injuring a shopkeeper. Six days later they were arrested. On 5 June 2011, several hours after that two British tourists were robbed near the Cathedral (il Duomo), the Carabinieri were able to identify and arrest the alleged criminal. On 8 June 2011, two criminals were arrested several hours after robbing an American woman, member of the military, in the Capodichino airport area.

On two different occasions during the last ten days, tourists have been pleasantly surprised that honest Neapolitans have returned valuables that they had misplaced or lost. In one case, a tourist from Florence lost, in the Port area, her wallet with over 500 Euros and credit cards and in another an Italian who lives abroad left his personal computer in a taxi cab. In both cases, all valuables were returned to the happy owners.

The death of American tourist Antonio Oscar Mendoza, who died on 27 May 2011, nine days after that two criminals injured him when snatching his Rolex in the Port area, has led many Neapolitans to become more sensitive to the damage done to the image of the city by organized and petty crime. The two alleged criminals accused of having caused the death of the American tourist have been arrested on 31 May 2011. The new Mayor, in a meeting with the American Consul General, Donald Moore, expressed his condolences for the death of the American tourist and discussed with the American official his ideas for making Naples a more secure place for citizens and visitors alike. Neapolitans have reacted to Mendoza’s death in different ways, to include the official request to the Mayor to name a street in the Port area in the honor of the slain tourist.

Now it is up to Luigi de Magistris, the new mayor, to keep up the momentum and to start implementing real change. Tomorrow he will announce his new city government.

Guerilla Gardening in Piazza Bellini – photographs from “La Repubblica”

CLEANAP photos on Facebook (must have a Facebook account)

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Berlusconi promises again to rid Naples of garbage

Anthony M. Quattrone

A child walks through uncollected garbage on his way back from school in the historic Spanish district of Naples on November 22, 2010 AFP Photo / Roberto Salomone

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised on 27 November 2010 that in two weeks’ time Naples will be garbage free.  It’s the second time in the last two months that he has promised to remove garbage from the streets of Naples.  Regrettably, he did not keep the one he made on 22 October 2010, and now the streets of Naples have accumulated 2,700 metric tons of uncollected garbage (i.e., about 6 million pounds).

Most people had reason to believe Berlusconi in October, because in 2008, after winning the national elections, he got the garbage off the streets, as promised during the election campaign.  On 21 May 2008, Berlusconi held his first cabinet meeting in Naples and ten months later, on 26 March 2009, he returned to inaugurate the new incinerator in Acerra, where most of the garbage produced by the former capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was to be treated.  During the inauguration ceremony in Acerra, Berlusconi declared that the garbage emergency in Naples was over.  Unfortunately, the Acerra plant, which is composed of three independent processing units, has never worked at full capacity.

Berlusconi’s new promise to rid the city of the garbage sitting on the streets appears to be a “mission impossible” to many observers due to a combination of technical and political issues.

On the technical side, the garbage sitting on the streets can be picked up in a couple of days, but the problem is where to put it.  The Acerra incinerator is not working at full capacity, existing landfills are almost full, the digging of new landfills are at a standstill due to “not-in-my-backyard” protests by people living in the affected communities, and very few Regional governments have expressed their willingness to process any garbage from Campania.  The Italian Army is sending 400 troops with equipment to assist in picking up the garbage and in securing designated storage depots and landfills.  Several cities have sent compactor garbage trucks to assist in picking up and processing the garbage.  The towns of Avellino and Caserta have agreed to take approximately 250 tons of garbage per day from Naples in exchange of being allowed to use the Acerra incinerator.

On the political side, Berlusconi is facing three main political problems in solving the garbage crisis. Continue reading

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Cosentino will not be arrested

Anthony M. Quattrone

A Chamber of Deputies commission, responsible for examining requests by the judiciary to arrest a representative, voted on 25 November 2009 against authorizing the detention of Nicola Cosentino, with 11 votes against the arrest, six in favor, and who abstained. The final decision regarding Cosentino will be made, however, on 10 December 2009, when the House will be called, during a full session, to vote on the request made by the Office of the Public Prosecutor to arrest him for external participation in the activities of the Camorra, the Neapolitan organized crime. On the same day, the Senate voted against two motions put forward by the opposition requesting that Cosentino, be removed from his position as undersecretary of the ministry of the economy in the Berlusconi government. Both motions were rejected by the ample majority supporting the Berlusconi government in the Senate.

While the Cosentino case continues through the parliamentary process, Gioandomenico Lepore, the Naples public prosecutor, confirmed that the case inquiry against Cosentino will continue. Lepore stated that the judiciary and Parliament have different roles, and that “we have understood this issue in one way, while they have understood it in another. This does not impede us from continuing ascertaining the facts. If we find elements supporting our case, then we will continue; if not, we will stop. In the meantime, the investigation continues”.

Cosentino, who is the regional coordinator for Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (PdL) party, is continuing his campaign to become the next president of the Campania Region in the elections that will take place next March. In an interview published on the Naples edition of La Repubblica on 6 December 2009, Cosentino stated that he will never give up and will not allow the opposition to win. He stated that “I am, we are in the electoral campaign. The voters have understood that in this Region we are the only valid alternative to the last fifteen years of bad government,” referring in particular to the administration of Antonio Bassolino, who has been the “governor” of the Campania Region since 2000. Cosentino is convinced that the accusations against him are politically driven. He notes that if the magistrates have been investigating him since 1990, for external relationships with the organized crime family Casalesi, he wonders why they have come out only now with formal accusations. According to Cosentino, “the only reason behind the request to arrest me is to stop me from participating in the campaign” for president of the Region.

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