He set up the secret and very flexible operation of "special police inspectorates" that became known as OVRA and freed them of the territorial restrictions of the regular provincial police.
Eventually there were OVRA offices in Florence, Rome, Avezzano, Bari, Palermo, Naples, Cagliari, and the conquered Yugoslav city of Ljubljana, although the initial offices in Milan and Bologna remained the most important.
The network was comprised of 1) agents and spies in those countries with large communities of Italians, 2) a greatly strengthened, double-layered border patrol supervised by Public Security officials, and 3) the Militia transport police within Italy, offices of the regular political police, all other police forces, and, as the coordinating element of it all, OVRA.
Lavish budgets and the police licensing regulations on businesses--especially those that dealt with movements of people and their overnight accommodations--produced the network of informants in the pay of OVRA and other police forces in Italy and abroad.
Confusion persists about the precise relationship between the official political offices of the Pubblica Sicurezza and Bocchini's own OVRA.
Officials and Agents for All OVRA Offices in 1940 Officials Agents OVRA I (Milan) 20 128 OVRA II (Bologna) 7 27 OVRA III (Bari) 4 23 OVRA IV (Avezzano) 2 14 OVRA V (Palermo) 3 13 OVRA VI (Cagliari) 2 9 OVRA VII (Naples) 5 24 OVRA VIII (Florence) 5 26 OVRA IX (Rome) 3 44 OVRA X (Catania) 3 11 Total 54 319
In this sense OVRA was similar to the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.
Despite elements of continuity, OVRA and the police legislation of the Fascist regime represented a qualitative jump to a pervasive idea of police control alien to the basic presumptions of the rulers of liberal Italy.
Comparing the respective chiefs of OVRA and the Gestapo, Lyttelton wrote that "[i]n Germany, the police administration fell into the hands of an ideologically inspired elite, originating in the ranks of the party.
Bocchini and OVRA offer a contrast of effective police work in the midst of a frequently inefficient Italian Fascism, and an example of behind-the-scene service for Mussolini that stands up very well to a comparison test with more notorious men and organizations such as those of Stalin and Hitler.
1) See Italo Savella, "Mussolini's Fouche Arturo Bocchini, the Fascist OVRA, and the Italian Police Tradition" (Ph.
2) See Savella, "Mussolini's Fouche," 11-14; Joel Blatt, "The Battle of Turin, 1933-1936: Carlo Rosselli, Giustizia e Liberta, OVRA and the Origins of Mussolini's anti-Semitic Campaign," Journal of Modern Italian Studies 1 (1995): 22-57; Cesare Rossi, "L'OVRA in pillole" in Trentatre vicende mussoliniane, ed.