Italy's Senate has passed a bill aimed at cracking down on mafia threats against local administrators that often involve arson attacks, dead animals and envelopes full of bullets.
The bill, passed on Wednesday, would increase sentences and allow wiretaps and other investigative tools that police can use to track down those who threaten local administrators.
It must now be approved by the lower house of parliament to become law.
"In the past 40 years, 132 local administrators and 11 of their spouses have been murdered," said Senator Doris Lo Moro, one of the sponsors of the bill.
Local state representatives "should be protected," she said after its passage.
Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria and the Camorra in Campania have long used violence and intimidation to manipulate state officials in Italy's south, but data and recent scandals show the problem has spread north, even to the capital Rome.
Threats against administrators are on the rise, with 180 recorded during the first five months of this year, a more than 15 per cent increase versus the same period of last year, according to data from Avviso Pubblico, a network of local administrations.
Since 1991, 212 city governments around Italy have been dissolved because of mafia infiltration, including three so far this year.
The most common form of intimidation that Italian organised crime groups used this year was arson, but letters containing bullets were also common, the data showed.
Calabria, home of the 'Ndrangheta clan which has become the most powerful cocaine broker in Europe, recorded the most cases.