Distinguishing Between Gangs & Mafias

Gang vs Mafia

Gang, mafia, mob, and other similar terms are often associated with organized crime. This type of criminal activity differs from spontaneous crimes or those resulting from individual efforts. Organized crime involves a group of criminals working together to engage in illegal activities for the financial gain of their organization or syndicate. While there are many similarities in the crimes committed by gangs and mafias, there are also structural differences and variations in the nature and functioning of these groups.


The term “mafia” refers to a criminal organization that originated in Sicily, Italy in the 19th century. The earliest mafia groups or gangs were extended families that engaged in illegal activities and extorted money in exchange for the protection they provided to ordinary people. Members of this organized crime syndicate took pride in calling themselves “men of honor,” and each group controlled a specific territory where it operated. Both the public and law enforcement authorities referred to these clans or families as the mafia. Over time, the term has become generic and is now applied to all groups or gangs that engage in illegal activities, have a particular modus operandi, and maintain a close-knit structure involving family members. The American mafia resulted from the immigration of Sicilian families to the United States.

Initially, extortion was the primary activity of the Mafiosi, but these crime syndicates are now involved in various illegal activities such as prostitution, smuggling, and drug trafficking. It is essential to note that a mafia syndicate typically has strong control exercised by a patriarch and maintains strong connections with officials in positions of authority. This helps the group members avoid law enforcement and subsequent jail sentences.


A “gang” is a term applied to any association of criminals with a clear hierarchy and control structure that engages in criminal activities for monetary profit. Gangs often claim control over territories, frequently engaging in fierce battles with other gangs over territorial control. Gangs are more commonly found in large cities and other urban areas rather than rural settings. The Sicilian mafia is an excellent example of a gang. Thousands of gangs operate in various countries, engaging in diverse illegal activities. Gangs are also sometimes referred to as mobs.

Key Takeaways

• Gangs are organizations with members engaging in illegal activities, while the mafia is a type of gang.
• The term “gang” is used in a generic sense, while the Sicilian mafia, or simply mafia, is a specific example of a gang.
• The mafia is a crime syndicate that primarily consists of members from an extended family with a clear hierarchy and control structure.

Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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