The mime Marcel Marceau as “Bip” in Rome at the time of the film Barbarella, 1968.

Years ago, there was a short-lived initiative in the U.S. to clear shopping-mall parking lots of loitering teenagers by blaring high-volume Muzak until they dispersed. Whether authorities in Rome’s suburbs had this approach in mind when they attempted recently to rid their piazzas of entrenched Mafia drug dealers isn’t known. In any event, hoping to scatter the undesirables, they unleashed upon them a kind of Operation Busker Storm, a performing-artists assault of poets, dancers, musicians, and jugglers—the nuclear option, should it ever come to that, would presumably involve mimes—with similarly mixed results. “In San Basilio, one woman screamed, ‘I want the dealers, not you’ at me, while mob bosses were filming people’s windows to see who opened their curtain to applaud,” Federica Angeli, the initiative’s organizer, admitted to The Times of London.

Still, there’s hope that the concept of deploying street performers to frighten away criminals might yet work. “In Tor Bella Monaca, where drug dealing is run by the Camorra from Naples, mobsters were less threatening, asking the musicians to play Neapolitan songs,” reported the newspaper, and in La Romanina some of the braver residents were moved to dance.