Video: To fight crime, city hires ex-cons

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    >>> a difference

    >>> what is a stow renowned as a tourist destination is the target of criminals? in this case it's the help of ex-convicts.

    >> reporter: there's an old saying you should see naples before the die because the history, beauty and charm of this ancient italian city is so overwhelming. there is also a warning to visiting tourists. be on guard because on average there are 100 muggings, purse snatchings and picked pockets a day. now in a unique response to a spike in street crime , the the city has hired ex-cons to act as tourist guides. he he was recently released from prison advises a german tourists to guard his camera and gets a guarded reaction.

    >> people think we are in naples . who is this guy? it's a normal reaction i think.

    >> reporter: what is not normal is having 70 former criminals on the city payroll to help visitors avoid being the victims this councilman admits he's letting the wolf look after the sheep.

    >> i think it's a better way to fight the mafia people in italy.

    >> murderers, rapists and armed robbers cannot apply. the ex-cons wear fluorescent vests. tourists are shocked to be approached by former criminals.

    >> once somebody becomes a thief, they'll always be a thief.

    >> reporter: naples has always been a city of saints and sinners . the local mafia recruits new members from prison. to help combat that, the city pays the ex-cons $725 a month for a 20-hour work week. city officials claim street crime has dropped by 85% since the program started. there's no way of verifying that number. you have to take the word of urturo who says he's grateful for any job that keeps him from a life of crime. opponents claim the ex-cons aren't trained to deal with foreign visitors and don't possess the social skills to act as guides. they say it will give naples a new nickname, the city of hugs and thugs. funding runs out in december, but rather than planning a crime spree , these ex-cons went on strike demanding to keep their jobs as guides. keith miller , nbc news, naples .

    >> that's " nbc nightly news" for this sunday. " football night in america " is coming up followed by "sunday night football," the cowboys versus the eagles tonight. brian williams will be here tonight. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. from all of us here at nbc news, good night.

updated 11/8/2009 1:07:48 PM ET 2009-11-08T18:07:48

Italy on Sunday hailed the capture of a wig-disguised mobster who had been on the list of the country's top 30 fugitives.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa's office said paramilitary police arrested Luigi Esposito on Saturday in Posillipo, a northern coastal suburb of Naples. Esposito, on the run since 2003, was using a wig and false name when captured.

Esposito winked at relatives and pursed his lips in a sign of a kiss Saturday outside the Naples police headquarters as officers led him off to prison.

The Associated Press could not reach the police for comment Sunday.

Naples newspaper Il Mattino quoted local commander Mario Cinque as describing Esposito as an expert money-launderer, who funneled illicit cash from drug trafficking into tourism and other businesses for the Camorra crime syndicate.

Il Mattino reported that Esposito was convicted in 1981 of possessing weapons and ammunition, and was among 33 people indicted in 2003 as alleged members of the Camorra clan based on Naples' north side.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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