How Palermo became a world example

Leoluca Orlando, the quickfire mayor of Palermo who bursts with self-confidence, loves an audience.

And this week, he has been showing off his successes to visitors from all over the world, anxious to see if they can put his recipes to work in their own crime-ridden communities. Such as a delegation of citizens from Youngstown, Ohio, who are battling what they call endemic official corruption and mob influence in their home town, dubbed "Crimetown, USA."

"We've come to see if any of the things they've done here can be transposed to Youngstown," says Jim Callen, a lawyer who has campaigned for reform for 20 years.

Intrigued by the way Orlando attacked the cultural roots of organized crime, Mr. Callen is especially interested in the sort of educational programs Palermo schools have run. Teachers on both sides of the Mexico-California border have set up similar courses, and they will soon be introduced in New York schools, according to Roy Godson, who is spreading the Palermo word abroad. The California programs use things like "Lord of the Flies" to illustrate to children what happens without rules, and the film "Goodfellas," to show how tempting a life of crime seems.

"Legality classes" are also taught in Hong Kong schools. Officials from the former Soviet republic of Georgia were also in Palermo this week. "In Georgia, corruption is everywhere. It's not just a problem of the government but of society," says Lado Chanturia, the country's chief justice. "In our anticorruption program, we are making a special point of educating our young people."

Also in town was David Trimble, Northern Ireland's first minister, who looks ahead to the days of definitive peace, when his province's shattered community will rebuild. Armed groups there have often used ideology as little more than a front for running protection rackets, he says. Now, "people who were part-time terrorists and part-time racketeers are working full-time at racketeering." So Belfast could pick up a tip or two from Palermo.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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