The Italian city of Oderzo isn’t particularly known for its crime. Located a little more than an hour north of Venice on the wine-growing flats between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, it has a small urban center with clean cobbled streets flanked by well-lit arcades. On its immaculate walls, a tagger’s scrawl stands out like a scar.
So it’s a strange place to find a new program of citizen anti-crime patrols in action, the result of a controversial initiative by the xenophobic Northern League party.
Daniele Pelliciardi, the man who leads Oderzo’s patrols, hunches his shoulders against the last bite of winter. It’s just before sundown as he walks me through his beat. “Our work is to observe,” he says. “Everything strange that we’ll see will get recorded—from the Moroccan selling counterfeit bags to somebody purse-snatching an old lady.”
We haven’t walked more than a few blocks before I realize that the city’s initiative has less to do with anything about Oderzo itself than with the man who’s showing me the streets. The last major crime in the area was a brutal one. And it happened to Pelliciardi’s parents.
In August 2007, at least two men broke into the house east of town where the couple, both in their 60s, lived as the caretakers of an adjacent villa. According to the coroner’s report, the intruders held down the husband while they tortured the wife. Police suspect that the men, drunk and high on cocaine, wanted the couple to give them the keys to the villa, which they didn’t have. The ordeal went on for at least an hour before a blow caved in the woman’s skull. Pelliciardi’s father was also stabbed and beaten. He survived his wife by at least 15 minutes, until the intruders snapped his neck. The police charged two Albanians and a Romanian with the crime. One of the men committed suicide in jail; the other two were convicted in 2008.