Unlike the Sicilian Mafia, which has a clear hierarchy and a division of interests, the Camorra's activities are much less centralized. This makes the organization much more difficult to combat through crude repression. In Campania, where unemployment is high and opportunities are limited, the Camorra has become an integral part of the fabric of society. It offers a sense of community and provides the youth with jobs. Members are guided in the pursuit of criminal activities, including cigarette smuggling, drug trafficking, and theft.
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In the 1970s and 1980s Raffaele Cutolo made an attempt to unify the Camorra families in the manner of the Sicilian Mafia, by forming the New Organized Camorra (Nuova Camorra Organizzata or NCO), but this proved unsuccessful. Drive-by shootings by camorristi often result in casualties among the local population, but such episodes are often difficult to investigate because of widespread omertà (code of silence). According to a report from Confesercenti, the second-largest Italian Trade Organization, published on October 22, 2007 in the Corriere della Sera, the Camorra control the milk and fish industries, the coffee trade, and over 2,500 bakeries in Naples.
The Camorra was never a coherent whole nor a centralised organization. Instead, it has always been a loose confederation of different, independent groups or families. Each group was bound around kinship ties and controlled economic activities which took place in its particular territory. Each family clan took care of its own business, protected its territory, and sometimes tried to expand at another group’s expense. Although not centralized, there was some minimal coordination, to avoid mutual interference. The families competed to maintain a system of checks and balances between equal powers.
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