Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor
Criminologist Dr Enrico de Simone of Verona, Italy, has warned of a growing threat posed by criminal gangs that are increasingly hiring shamans and occultists for protection against rivals and law enforcement agents.
Dr de Simone has painted a disturbing social scenario of dysfunctional families and emotionally starved youth who fall victim to gangs notorious for dabbling in the occult arts, libertinism and criminal activities.
"There is a frightening trend in mixing the occult, drugs and crime," he said.
"We must understand the underlying causes that bewitch young people into joining gangs that are led by manipulative criminals and pseudo-religionists and shamans." The criminologist identified isolation, loneliness, lack of attention and love as the breeding ground for disillusioned youths.
"The limitless reach of the Internet has worsened the problem for law enforcement.
"Today, it is difficult to make a distinction between criminal and occult gangs," he explained.
"What we should note is how these gangs creep into the lives of vulnerable youths. Basically, they offer solutions to their disaffection."
Dr de Simone referred to the method of seduction as "love bombing", where attention is showered on the prospective member.
"It is a disarming process that can take some time. Trust and camaraderie are shored up and all needs are met, one of which could be a drug habit."
The world-renowned criminologist explained that with "constant grooming," contact with the outside world is severed, and "family members become strangers, even enemies."
At that point, the new gang member, whose identity has now been shredded, has lost all ability to resist the demands of the group's leadership.
Dr de Simone stated that today's criminal gangs indulge in more than drugs and gun trafficking.
He has seen evidence of black magic, Satanism, and elements of religious practices found in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
He detailed a crude mélange of indigenous and traditional religious elements borrowed from Santeria, Santo Daime, and Voodoo, with paraphernalia from rites of the Black Mass.
In these ceremonies, hallucinogens are used to increase spiritual power and garner protection from spirits during the planning and commission of crimes.
He stated that criminal activities vary in gravity but usually involve the destruction of property, drug trafficking, theft, defiling the dead, stealing pieces of cadavers, necromancy and armed clashes with other gangs.
The use of potent drugs, he explained, is meant to connect users to spirits who serve as their guardians creating a feeling of grandiosity and invincibility.
"Drugs bring us down to our base, animalistic self."
He attributed the marked increase in drugs in occult-related crimes to "the international drug trade controlled by the Italian and Russian Mafia, and now the Gypsies, along with local crime syndicates in every country".
images of Baphomet
His work has brought him to abandoned homes and churches; and forested areas where he has seen images of Baphomet (a pagan deity, also used to symbolise the Church of Satan), drums, black candles, circles, hexagrams, pentagrams (intended to invoke spiritual forces), carcasses, syringes, altars, amulets, Halloween-like masks, and other occult paraphernalia.
Dr de Simone's expertise has taken him to several countries to assist law enforcement in combating this new configuration of criminal gangs.
He elaborated that with the introduction of the occult and hallucinogens in criminal gangs, there has been an increase in mania and suicide among gang members. "There is a strong distortion of reality in these cases as members have taken their lives in these spasms of mental dissociation."
He identified a well-orchestrated plan of action by the gang's leadership that prevents frightened members from leaving.
"Leaders use video recorders, audio tapes and cameras to capture members perpetrating violent crimes, indulging in sexual acts of minors, group sex, and other improprieties. This evidence is used to manipulate members ... It is a kind of extortion."
According to Dr de Simone, particulars of members' families of gang members are known and, as such, they become the target of threats and violence if members second guess their involvement in criminal activities.
The gang members are also reluctant to take the witness stand when charges are brought against the group's leadership.
"This is why it's so difficult to infiltrate and dismantle these syndicates," he offered.
"There is a real climate of intimidation. That is why a witness protection programme and therapy are urgently needed to rehabilitate psychologically scared former members."
parents need to be attentive
He warned parents to be more attentive to "indicators". He singled out "vampire marks, tattoos, eating disorder, drug and alcohol use, symbols drawn on schoolbooks and notebooks, cuts on the body, and recurring illnesses, such as diarrhoea," as the main indicators
Dr de Simone advised that a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, pastoral counsellors and social workers should devise comprehensive strategies to address what he called "a growing problem that threatens the stability of societies around the world".
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