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"I got Harlem, Richie. I took care of Harlem, and now Harlem is gonna take care of me. You can believe that."
—Frank Lucas, American Gangster
It's not enough for it to just feel good to be a gangster, you should also win the sympathy of the audience. Since racketeering, random murders and selling drugs don't really fly with the general public, heroic criminals in fiction are usually Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters.
This trope has some elements of Truth in Television: crime syndicates that wish to survive in a community try to have good public relations, after the philosophy "don't shit where you eat". Many criminal organizations (including the Sicilian Mafia, the Chinese triad societies, and most American street gangs) also have their roots in community self-defense efforts, although they share a strong tendency to degenerate into more euphemistic "protection" among other abuses. Moreover, having an organised crime outfit in your neighborhood tends to help cut down on disorganized crime—the common criminals who might otherwise commit crimes in that neighborhood are too afraid of committing a crime against the wrong person, and paying for it.
Compare Even Evil Has Standards, Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!, Gentleman Thief, The Family for the Whole Family, Honor Among Thieves, and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Contrast Ruthless Foreign Gangsters.
Anime & Manga
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 5, Vento Aureo / Golden Winds, has a section of Passione, a gang which carries the series protagonist, Giorno, as it's newest member. The gang are a small subgroup in the prominent mafia which are an exception in that the people LIKE them, rather than the extortion side. The only nasty member gets his early on and replaced by Giorno, following which it is revealed that the group leader Bruno Bucciarati hates drug dealing and dirty deeds and only joined up to help put a stop to it (Similar to Giorno himself). The boys are so Neighbourhood Friendly that old people willingly go up to ask them, a group of rogues with supernatural abilities and trouble surrounding them, for help.
- Baccano doesn't really touch at all on the crime-for-profit element of The Mafia (except for a few mentions of speakeasies), and its mobster characters might as well be violent aristocrats given their behavior and portrayal. The light novels do go a bit more into crime, with the Genoard fortune coming from cocaine and the Gandors being explicitly opposed to drug dealing. Of course, this only reinforces which characters are Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters.
- Also, Jaccuzi and Nice run a crew of community minded delinquents.
- Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho is a Neighbourhood Friendly Punk who shoplifts, smokes, gambles and gets into fights for fun.
- Ichigo from Bleach starts out perceived the same way, as he is believed to bleach his hair, even though it is naturally red, and he does not trust authority figures.
- The Kuroda group in Gokusen is like this. They still like a good fight and get most of their resources from illegal gambling and protection of hostess bars.
- The Washimine group of the "Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise" arc in Black Lagoon is an ethical Yakuza, fighting an uphill battle against more ruthless Delinquents and The Mafiya headed by Balalaika. Ginji Matsuzaki, the wakagashira and resident Badass of the group, comments that while they're impoverished, it's more honourable than "selling women and meth."
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn, for the first 8 volumes, is a wacky comedy where the cast is supposed to be a Mafia family. They're really more True Companions than anything else.
- Then the other part of their family show that they are not Friendly and engages in the battle for succession of the boss title.
- Later, another mafia family is introduced. This one (in the future) has taken over the world.
- And the latest flashbacks reveal that the protagonist's family in its first generation was a vigilante group, and only later has been turned into a full-blown mafia family.
- The Sonozaki family in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni enforces the peace in Hinamizawa whenever the cops aren't around.
- The Dollars in Durarara are something of an example, whether they're a gang, a neighbourhood watch organisation or just a group of random anonymous people depends on how you look at it. Also when Kida ruled them the Yellow Scarves were this, at least in comparison to Blue Square.
- The Yakuza of Futakoi Alternative. Granted, when compared to biomechanical flying pyromaniac squid, simple Yakuza seem pretty tame.
- The E Street Bloodsuckers from Formerly Known as the Justice League were super powered child prodigies who dropped out of college at 15 to seek enlightenment on the streets. They pretended to be gangsters in order to protect their neighborhood from genuine crime, and steal stuff. And, oh yeah, they were based on the Three Stooges.
- Catwoman and the Alleytown Kids. No drugs, no guns and don't steal from locals.
- After a tornado destroyed the already crumbling Hub City, Mayor Fermin hired the local biker gangs on as a police force. They actually did a better job than the real police.
- At one time or another, several of Gotham's street gangs have been under the leadership of Batman, whether they know it or not.
- During the Gang War storyline, Tarantula took over her neighborhood and forced the gangs to be more proactive.
- The later half of Brian Bendis's Daredevil run has Matt Murdock publicly beat Wilson Fisk and declare himself Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen. He tries to encourage other heroes to do the same for their respective neighborhoods.
- The Tsuruya Yakuza in the Suzumiya Haruhi Fanfic Kyon: Big Damn Hero.
- One chapter of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic Progress has Luna take up the mantle of the Mysterious Mare-Do-Well and try to fight crime. Unfortunately, she fails to find any; she even barges in on a Mafia meeting only to find that the mobsters are planning not a heist, but a charity toy drive.
- Johnny Dangerously. "I mean, sure, we were criminals, but we never hurt the general public. And every year at Christmas Time, we'd send a bit of money back to the community."
- Michael Jackson was meant to be one in the Smooth Criminal segment of the Moonwalker film against the evil mobster Mr. Big, played by Joe Pesci.
- American Gangster, though the drug trade isn't toned down, or glorified for that matter.
- The Corleone Family of The Godfather are like this under Don Vito: principled gangsters who look out for those who show them respect, refusing to deal with drugs. Whereas the other families, particularly the ruthless Tataglias and Barzinis, are downright evil. Becomes somewhat of a Lost Aesop in the video game, when you're running around beating up shopkeepers and collecting protection-money in the name of The Family...
- Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) in A Bronx Tale. Since it's all based on Palminteri's youth in the Bronx, the original Sonny is probably an example of Truth in Television as well.
- It is worth noting that while Sonny does believe in taking care of the neighbourhood, a lot of the guys he is in charge of are either losers or violent thugs, and there are some small hints that if one of the other guys was running things instead things would be a lot messier for that neighbourhood.
- Played for laughs in Ali G Indahouse. The sleepy suburb of Staines has two resident "gangs," who are really just middle-class kids who like to imitate gangsta rappers. Completely harmless to the public and each other, their biggest crimes are graffiti and smoking weed. One particular scene focuses on how Ali G won't even exceed the speed limit. He even volunteers at a leisure center to teach kids how to "Keep it Real."
- Further than that, one member of Ali G's group ends up accidentally having his yellow gang colours turn green as his mother put it in the wash with a blue article of his brother's clothing. The Race in which they never exceed the speed limit is eventually lost by Ali's gang as they stop at a red light, which the other gang do not.
- The male protagonist of Victor/Victoria is a sort of Gatsby-like character- an educated guy who is the brains/face for mobsters, but he doesn't do anything evil on screen except struggling against other gangsters who are presented as bad guys, and his Gayngster bodyguard is an all-around nice guy as well.
- In the Mexican film El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro), the local priest has a long-standing friendship with the local drug lord who donates large sums of money for the church's new leper's hospital and orphanage.
- Marcone from The Dresden Files can fall into this trope as his syndicate helped Harry take down a serial killer in book one, and the police for the most part don't bother him due to the fact that his organized crime tends to keep lesser gangs from going rampant.
- It should be noted, however, that the "serial killer" in Storm Front was actually targeting Marcone and his gang, so Marcone's extremely limited help was enlightened self-interest. Also, Marcone is the only crime boss in Chicago. There are no other gangs; he controls his own people ruthlessly, because unnecessary violence is bad for business, and attracts police attention. However, god help anyone, criminal or otherwise, who hurts a child if Marcone finds out about it-- even his own people are to leave kids alone.
- Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series keeps Vlad sympathetic by showing how the Jhereg criminal organization to which he belongs has a strict code of ethics. They deal in the vice industry, but don't force anyone to take their wares. They demand protection money, but actually follow through with it. They carry out assassinations, but generally only on fellow power-players. If you're a common citizen who keeps his nose clean, you have virtually nothing to fear. Eventually, however, Vlad becomes disenchanted by criminality altogether.
- The Thieves Guild in Discworld 'has standards' and arranges crime in mutally benificent forms (as far as crime goes): rich people pay an annual premium, and arrange for a convenient date to rob an acceptable amount from these rich clients in their own home. Poorer (but not penniless) citizens are robbed in a fairly polite fashion on the streets, their business premises or homes, are not badly injured, and are given a receipt which guarantees they won't suffer another official robbery for the rest of the year. Criminals who don't keep to this arrangement, or who don't display their licence when on business, are dealt with by the Watch if they're lucky... or by the Thieves' Guild if they're unlucky.
- The Troll criminal organisation "Breccia" also fits the mold, even though they are pretty ruthless. Chrysophrase helps Vimes prevent riots on Koom Valley Day by revealing a drug lab.
- That's because the drug manufactured there would cause homicidal insanity, and later death. Chrysophrase wants stable business, which is rather hard with dead customers. Breccia is an extremely ruthless Mafia organization - Chrysophrase chops up one of his underlings for being disrespectful in the very same scene (well is implied to, anyway) - but they don't want to rock the boat too much and destroy their own chances of getting rich(er).
- Not just implied:
- The Troll criminal organisation "Breccia" also fits the mold, even though they are pretty ruthless. Chrysophrase helps Vimes prevent riots on Koom Valley Day by revealing a drug lab.
Chrysophrase pushed forward a crate. "Here. Dis is dat troll what was so disrespec'ful of you an' you family earlier. He suggest I would bring harm to your lovely wife or your son. He a bad troll. Very disrespec'ful."
- It is stated in the later books that the Thieves Guild is slowly evolving into an insurance company. Chrysophrase also claims to be moving into legitimate property and financial services more than his first business, drug smuggling, though he remains a major underworld figure, whereas the Head of the Thieves Guild is an important and respected citizen who, it is implied, could even be a candidate for Patrician.
- Crime bosses Stragen, Platime, and Calaador, all members of the "secret government" of thieves in David Eddings' The Elenium, are willing allies of the protagonists. Each is depicted as being essentially driven by good business sense rather than cruelty. Stragen in particular had taught his Guild to prey more upon the aristocracy than the common folk.
- The hooligans in Football Factory are pretty close to a organized crime group, and even sell some drugs, but are decent people for the most part, with a code of honour to only fight with other hooligans and the "old bill".
- Recurring character Tony Marcus from the Spenser series runs most of the black crime in Boston, but is generally a pretty friendly guy, even when he's threatening Spenser. But just as often he's willing to lend out his people to Spenser to get someone worse out of Boston.
- The Mafia of Snow Crash are, essentially, just another corporation by this point. They engage in gang war with some other, newer and more ruthless gangs—it's stated at one point that a Mafia branch had taken over an area traditionally dominated by said newer gangs, and turned it from a stereotypical gang-crime hellhole into a more-or-less peaceful neighborhood. Of course, in Snow Crash the distinction between criminal syndicate, corporation and country is never entirely clear.
- Angel: Gunn used to belong to this kind of gang, and the members of his old gang appear in several episodes. The enemy they defend the neighborhood from is, of course, vampires and other demons.
- Boardwalk Empire: Nucky's republican organization regularly gives out handouts of money food and cash to the poor mostly seasonally employed workers of the city. Like much of the show this is Truth in Television for the histroical Nucky as well. The show also features Al Capone and Lucky Luciano who are listed in this pages Real Life section.
- Chalky White is an even better example. He protects the black community of Atlantic City from the Klu Klux Klan and uses his connections with Nucky to get them jobs. He seems to know everyone in the community and what problems their families have.
- Burn Notice: Michael and company have to deal with a gang leader of this sort in one episode. The episode implies that this gangster's presence in his local community would be much more preferable to the rival gang.
- Caprica: The Ha'la'tha, but only for Taurons.
- Castle and Beckett Come across one such gang in an interesting characterization of the Westies.
- Good Times: Sweet Daddy Williams is this. One prime example is that he did not charge his usual exorbitant rates on the money that JJ owed him for Thelma's wedding. He was moved by Thelma giving him her heirloom necklace that Florida had given her for the wedding because it reminded him of his mother. Since Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, he tells the family that he is letting them off the hook on the condition that they not tell anyone about his kindness.
- Riverdale: The Southside Serpents.
- Sons of Anarchy: The title biker gang keeps other gangs and drugs out of it's home town of Charming and members contribute manpower to local charities. Outside of Charming it's a different story.
- Veronica Mars: Weevil becomes one towards Veronica later.
- The Wire: Omar Little acted like this. He would steal drugs and cash from stashes, and then distribute the drugs for free to people who lived near his hideouts. They would then act as spies for him.
- The Barksdale crew acted like this to a much lesser extent, by sponsoring the crosstown basketball game vs. teh East side Proposition Joe crew. The Barksdales also helped fund Cutty's boxing gym.
- To an even lesser, lesser extent Marlo gave out money to the local kids for back to school clothes.
- Although in Marlo's case it seemed more like he was trying to test which kids would give good soldiers. After all that's the way he spotted Michael.
- The Geto Boys song "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" mentions "feedin' the poor and helpin' out wit' they bills" in the 2nd verse.
- WWE's Cryme Tyme were brought in as a parody of neighbourhood gangstas, quickly stealing the hearts of the fans. Shad... well, he got worse.
- The FBI (Full Blooded Italians) during their face runs, then especially Vito who started wrestling in a dress.
- L.A.X. could be seen as this to the hispanic audiences, especially once they turned full blown face.
- Grove Street Families and Varrios Los Aztecas from Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, while still committing gang-warfare and gunrunning, nonetheless are shown to abhor the drugs trade, with the Grove Street Families cracking down hard on anyone who sells drugs on their turf. Eventually however, the loss of drug revenue makes the gang splinter from the inside.
- This is the justification used by the 3rd Street Saints in Saints Row, but they jump off the slippery slope pretty quickly, particularly in the sequels.
- The Kantou Haguro-gumi in Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army are a quick-tempered bunch, but they're generally Robin Hood-types. When their community is threatened, they are more focused on and do a better job of protecting it than the Army.
- Played straight (until Fridge Logic kicked in) in the fun but forgettable Cold Zero action game. The plot had you working for a Mafia boss after a rival frames him and starts selling a drug with 100% lethality (...wait, what?). The game even ends with a Spinning Paper reporting "Mob Boss cleared of all charges!" You're supposed to feel pleased about this, but you're given no in-game reason to think this Don is any less psychotic than your average Mafioso.
- The Kitaki Family in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney certainly qualify for this-when you meet the boss's wife, she is cleaning up spilled paint on her own, and later, one person comments that the Kitaki's are "locally responsible gangsters."
- The Thieves Guild in Oblivion plays this trope straight. They're based in the waterfront (poor district) and refuse to steal from the poor as well as stealing their tax money back from the guard.
- The Yoshimitsu Group of the Soul Series. They are established to protect the poor from both the corruption of the rich and the permeating evil of Soul Edge.
- The Hidden Beks in Knights of the Old Republic.
- The Freakshow in City of Heroes are a gang of scary, drug addicted, Cyborg gangers that exemplify the trope "Anarchy Is Chaos". That is, until Miss Francine comes along and teaches them how to to use their powers for good. Westin Phipps has you kidnap Miss Francine and bring her in for torture so the Freakshow will stop being altruistic. Thankfully, you can willingly fail this mission. Even Evil Has Standards, after all. Friendly Neighborhood Freakshow "inspired by Miss Francine" later show up in a Going Rogue tip mission. Heroes can rescue Miss Francine from Arachnos in another tip mission. Or they can just beat the shit out of Phipps.
- The Kings of Fallout: New Vegas are a gang of Elvis Impersonators who help protect the locals of Freeside, the slums of New Vegas.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the Cumberland, Maryland mob is led by King Radical, and works for the community through actions such as forcing college-bound students to go to the local Community College.
- The Dark Mage Gang in Aetheria Epics.
- As stated, real life gangs, Mafia, Yakuza and Cartels try to keep up public relations at home ground.
- Al Capone had soup lines set up in Chicago during the Great Depression.
- He had a soft spot for children, once trying to see that they got good milk.
- Ironically, the supplies for Al Capone's soup kitchens were acquired by threatening bakeries, packinghouses and other food suppliers if they didn't meet the quota the gangsters demanded.
- Most organized crime syndicates (Mafia, Yakuza, street gangs) have their origins in vigilante groups that opposed more harmful criminals or corrupt police forces.
- Al Capone had soup lines set up in Chicago during the Great Depression.
- John Dillinger was perhaps even better example of the era, as unlike Capone it seems that he didn't kill anyone during his colorful career of robbing banks.
- He did, but that one was unintentional and whether Dillinger's gun actually killed the guy is contested. He was indirectly responsible or tied to a number of other killings though...
- Charles Luciano, using his connections with the Sicilian Mafia, enlisted them as allies in the fight against Mussolini's regime in Italy as part of a deal with the US government. Supposedly, when the Americans landed in Sicily a local delivered to them a flag with the letter "L" for "Luciano" on it.
- Chicago sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh spent years researching the Black Disciples Nation crack cocaine gang, and noticed they spent a part of their income to hold block parties and paid the families of dead members. The leader of the gang explained that they didn't want to be seen as a scourge to the community, rather a pillar.
- During the days immediately following Martin Luther King's assassination, there were horrific riots on the West Side of Chicago. The South Side, which was generally considered a much more dangerous area was not subject to rioting because the two large and powerful gangs (whose power struggle was what made it such a dangerous area in the first place!) the Blackstone Rangers and the Disciples, cooperated to keep it calm.
- This urban legend.
- African-American street gangs such as the Crips originally started as informal youth-oriented "street clubs" intended to protect the immediate community and counter the effects of the racism (both overt and institutional) that was pervasive in the mid-20th century.
- In a similar vein, the notorious MS-13 gang in Los Angeles was started by Salvadoran immigrants in response to attacks and intimidation by already-established Mexican and African-American gangs.
- Many South-American gang with large amouts of profit from drugs provide better saftey and security to locals than the goverment themselves would.
- The Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Yakuza gang in Japan, is headquartered in Kobe; during the earthquake in 1995, they donated money and a helicopter to the relief effort, and had their men rescuing people from the rubble. This trope is actually a part of their traditional code, since they considered themselves protectors of their communities (many yakuza traditions go back to vigilante groups in the early Edo period).
- The Yakuza aid and many others mentioned in Cracked 's "5 Inspiring Acts of Kindness by Terrifying Crime Syndicates"
- The notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar invested heavily in the welfare of his HQ city of Medellín, building housing projects, churches and sports facilities. The people of the city, especially the poor, saw him as a local hero.
- Escobar also offered to pay the entire Columbian national debt in exchange for immunity.
- When the police and army of Jamaica raided Kingston in search of Christopher "Dudus" Coke—suspected by the U.S. to be a gang leader and drug smuggler—the fighting just to get into the city block where he was suspected to be hiding killed some 50 people. The search wasn't helped by the fact that Coke is quite popular in his neighborhood, thanks to several charity initiatives he runs there.
- This is pretty much how large terrorist organizations work (and in many places, the line between "terrorist" and "gangster" can be blurry): they provide food, medical services, sometimes even run power plants to provide electricity better than the legitimate government, ensuring a friendly population who will hide them in an area they can base their attacks from. If the legitimate government is especially corrupt or incompetent (or simply doesn't have enough resources to provide for the entire country and concentrates on one area) the terrorists can become the de facto government. This is why Hezbollah is in control of parts of Lebanon, and Hamas did so well at this that it actually democratically won a majority in the government of the Palestinian Authority (and then took complete control of Gaza).
- Solntsevo is Moscow district, that was home of Solntsevskaya Bratva, one of the most powerful groups from The Mafiya. At the same time it was safest neighbourhood in the city, as no one dared to make trouble on the Bratva teritory and Bratva itself was keeping good PR.
- Example from Balkans. There is a report about case in which Mob retrived a car stolen from man who paid them for "insurance".
- Many of the Mexican drug cartels (especially the old-school ones) could pass as this, with the exception of the Zetas which are relatively new and known for their utter ruthlessness:
- The former drug lord Malherbe is regarded as a great benefactor of his home village, paving the streets and building schools and hospitals.
- Osiel Cardenas, the head of the Gulf Cartel, even after his capture sent trucks filled with toys, clowns and magicians to the children of impoverished neighborhoods and slums every Children's Day (April 30), he even included greeting cards encouraging the children from there to go to school, study and work hard.
- In the towns afflicted by the Drug War the members of the Gulf Cartel reportedly assist people looking for directions and give warnings about violent outbreaks, always remaining them that they are "Here to protect you".
- Many anarchists and other anti-statists who may or may not be comfortable with the "anarchist" label believe in a number of natural law doctrines in which the state is considered a criminal organization. Their view of the state and its employees ranges from this trope to Villain with Good Publicity.
- Apocryphally, word has it that petty street crime rose considerably in some neighbourhoods of New York City after the FBI successfully disrupted some major organized crime outfits.