ROME (AP) _ Riccardo Boccia, a government official known for leading police crackdowns on Naples' crime gangs, has been named Italy's top Mafia fighter, the government announced Saturday.

Boccia, 62, replaces Emanuele De Francesco, who was transferred at his own request. The move comes at a time of increasing Italian-U.S. cooperation in fighting the Mafia.

''There is a need to carry out extra efforts to get the highest coordination among various police agencies in this fight,'' Boccia told reporters.

''It's not an easy job, but it's indispensable,'' Boccia said. ''In Palermo, it's the highest duty.''

The new High Commissioner for the Fight against the Mafia is expected to spend much of his time in Palermo, the Sicilian capital and center of Italy's multimillion-dollar international drug rings.

As commissioner, he will be responsible for investigations into the Sicilian Mafia, the Neapolitan branch known as the Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and dozens of other splinter underworld groups throughout the country.

The commissioner has the power to freeze bank accounts of suspected Mafiosi, tap telephones and wield authority over various police forces.

For the past 31/2 years Boccia served as the Naples prefect, the central government's highest representative in the city.

In that position he led police crackdowns on the Camorra. Boccia also supervised the rebuilding of major areas following the 1980 Naples earthquake and coordinated central government aid to the troubled southern city.