When most people think of the Mafia they think, murderers and gamblers. But in fact the Mafia is more than just a bunch of wise guys sitting around gambling. For years organized crime families have provided for many and brought wealth to their communities. In the early years of America, organized crime helped pave a way for many of the American cities to grow to what they are today. Most of the families provide for more than one hundred people per community.
Organized crime has become a world of phenomenon. In Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, the forces of organized crime are at work and no society is spared. From it s traditional spheres of activity such as prostitution, the arms trade and trafficking in drugs, organized crime has now added money-laundering, the trade in nuclear technology, and even the transporting of illegal immigrants. Trans-national crime undermines the very foundations of the international democratic order. Trans-national crime effects the business climate, and persuades political leaders. Within societies, the triumphs of international crime is, more often than not, accompanied by a weakening of the law and sometimes even by a return to the law of the jungle. No one knows why crime occurs. The oldest theory is based on ethics and theology. It is that criminals are perverse persons who deliberately commit crimes or who do so at the instigation of the devil or other evil spirits. Criminologist pointed out that persons who are unable to provide adequately for themselves and their families through normal legal channels are frequently driven to theft, burglary, prostitution, and other offenses. Such conditions lead to feelings of deprivation and hopelessness and then turn to crime for means of escape. The feeling is encouraged by the example set by those who have escaped to what appears to be the better way of life made possible by crime. Studies by such investigators as the American criminologist, Bernard Glueck and the British psychiatrist William Healy have indicated that about one-fourth of a typical convict population is psychotic, neurotic, or emotionally unstable, and another one-fourth is mentally deficient. (84).
Although many criminals are mentally defected organized crime leaders are somewhat ingenious. In a world where the law stands strong these organized criminals have found ways to make millions. Many of these men consider themselves business men. Says one former crime family member, Sonny Reles, me and my partners are in shylocking, the restaurant business, garment industry, crap games, slot machines, bookmaking (69). In early years in New York racketeering was a big business. Organized crime officials had set up a type of underworld lottery. Many of the most respected people in the community played the numbers . The rackets became the first major business that organized crime gained total control over. Later organized crime stretched their involvement from the rackets to gambling, sports, and just about every small business you could think of. They seemed to find money in every thing they touched. Prostitution also became a widely spread business in America. Most organized crime families were tied into more than business at a time. States Burton Turkus, in 1945, New York City Investigations Commissioner Edgar Bromberger found that Erickson (New York Organized crime leader of the 30 s and 40 s) had made bank deposits of over $30,000,000 over a twelve year period (91). More recently organized crime has found it s way into bigger commercial businesses. Sports and entertainment have proved to be some of the biggest money maker for organized criminals. Many sport teams have an influence from the mafia. Throughout the past history of professional sports thousands of scandals have been revealed. Behind the majority of these scandals are ties to organized crime. Entertainment is now one of the biggest markets involving organized crime. From music stars to movie stars, organized crime has it s effect on them too. Organized crime has also produced the Union, which is a group of employees with protected rights.
One of the biggest events that changed America and organize crime forever was prohibition. Prohibition was the worst years according to some alcoholics. January 16, 1920 was the day all Americans had to give up drinking alcohol, well at least legally. They had to do this for thirteen whole years. Of course millions of gallons would be consumed illegally though. Will Rogers, the leading humorist of the era, was quoted, prohibition is better than no liquor at all. People were so desperate that they would brew it in their own sinks and bathtubs. This desperation is what made organized crime leaders rich. They had the power, money, will, and know-how to turn prohibition into a business. One would have workers brew the liquor in empty barns and warehouses then bottle them up for distribution. Smart organized crime leaders got into the bottling business too. Since most could not produce the booze at a mass quantity the few who could, had a tight grip on the bootlegging business. This also allowed them to over charge consumers for their product. For thirteen years organized criminals made millions. Humpert Nelli writes, Torrio-Capone Organization (bootleggers) of Chicago during late 1920 s and early 30 s showed an annual gross from beer of at least $60 million and perhaps as much as $240 million (150). In 1933 the government finally stopped prohibition ending all bootlegging operations.
Organized crime did more than make illegal business a fortune but also helped the growth of several American cities. When the first Italian immigrants landed in America there were signs of organized crime. New York is the most populated state and where many of the Italian immigrants lived. Organized crime ran underground rackets in New York that made millions. But as America expanded so did organized crime. First moving to west organized crime made a big impact on several midwest cities, such as; Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Omaha. Chicago was most noted for housing one of the most notorious gangsters of all time, Al Capone. During prohibition Capone and his affiliates made Chicago into a money maker. In Chicago organized crime families bootlegged liquor and sold it during these rough times. As more money rolled into Chicago so did the people. Thus making Chicago the large city it is today. Chicago s success also spawned success on other cities nearby. Kansas City has a considerable amount of organized crime involvement due to Chicago. Many Chicago bosses ran other businesses that were in Kansas City. In Kansas City, organized crime leaders took their involvement into restaurants, grocery stores and other small businesses. Soon cities like St. Louis and Omaha became important midwest cities. Possibly one of organized crimes greatest creations is Las Vegas, Nevada. The city has deep roots with an organized crime foundation. Las Vegas has every element to make it the criminal paradise. In early developing years of Las Vegas mafia owned and operated the first of the casinos. Billions of dollars were made by these men. First casinos profits went straight to the top, until government interaction. Las Vegas is now a family attraction that makes a fortune off tourist. All of this can be credited to organized crime.
The roots of America can be traced all the way to the first pilgrim taking his place on Plymouth Rock. But maybe none of these roots are as colorful, powerful, or meaningful than the organized crime root. Organized crime has laid a foundation for our country. From the early rackets to the present day Las Vegas to what ever the future holds for organized crime.
Murder Inc: the Story of the Syndicate
Turkus, Burton B. New York: Da Capo press 1992
The Business of Crime
Arlacchi, Pino London: Verso 1986
Knoedelseder, Bill New York: Harper Collins, 1993
War of the Godfathers
Roemer, William F. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1990
Bender, David L. San Diego: Greenhaven Press 1990
The New War