Organized Crimes of the 1920s in the US

The 1920s was an era that was known for organized crime: bootlegging, the fixing of the World Series, and corruption within police forces. Now the question is, who were the major players in these organized crimes of the 1920s and what were they involved in? What impact did these people and their crimes have on society? Most all their activities and crimes had international links and this is what makes them be referred to as organized crimes. The problem was not confined only to the western world as it was reported elsewhere. Organized crime could be defined as any illegal activity designed for making a profit whether nationally or internationally. My main interest in this essay is to discuss in depth the impacts of this organized crime and the key players in the 1920’s crimes. (Luman M.D. and Gary W.P. 1989)

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In the United States of America, organized crime reached the concern level in the 1920s and most particularly in the urban areas as the underground and the black market sale of the illegally produced goods increased for example the sale of alcohol in this period was 60 U.S dollars per year to some gangsters such as Al Capone. During the 1920s, the government of the U.S in trying to break the network of the organized crimes passed a prohibition law after the enactment of the 18th eighteenth amendment. This came to be known as the national prohibition act. The passage of this act was never fruitful and badly backfired as the organized crimes of that time assumed another dimension. The act came into full force on 16th January 1920 when some of the personal habits and customs of most Americans came to a full stop. The act prohibited the importation and exporting of illegal goods, transportation, and also the manufacturing of these illegal drinks especially intoxicants. (Kallen S.A. 2001)

The law treated any alcohol that was more than 0.5 as illegal and this was exclusive of those alcohols that are used in schools for laboratory tests and those that were being used for sacramental purposes. This prohibition was basically meant to scale down the rate of alcohol consumption. Alcohol was viewed by many as the source of all crimes and thus it was believed that its prohibition would reduce corruption, crimes, reduction of taxes especially that which is increased by the courts. It was also believed that this would improve the living conditions of the Americans. This era is commonly known as the progressive era and was a period that many unions developed and various labor rights were passed for example the minimum working age as well as the women’s rights to vote.

At the same period, Americans’ speed of working on the country’s social policy increased. Many policies such as the Red Scare were introduced. This made many thousands of Americans being locked up in jails. The prohibition era gave birth to gangsterism and organized crimes in the United States of America. The government itself conducted raids especially on them but contrary to the expectations they’re backfired. The prohibition law led to the rise of bootlegging or the business of importing and exporting illegal products; many gangsters after alcohol was prohibited resorted to bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, and racketeering as well as in other organized crimes. (Sullivan, R. 2002)

. The most notorious gangs of the time were Al Capone’s mob that was based in Chicago, Detroit but with connections in New York and other cities. These gangs crashed with each other leading to the death of many of their members. Al Capone joined the gangers club called the Frankie Yale a group that murdered several people. Any member who opposed his proposed move was ruthlessly killed for he was very determined to possess the “Racketeering rights”. By 1925-1930 Al Capone was in control of many of the vice industries in Chicago. His earnings were approximated to be a hundred million dollars per one year. (Rockwell K. 2005)

Though Capone murdered so many people, whenever he was arrested always had an excuse over those killings. He always produced an alibi showing that he was out of the country at the time the crime happened. The most notable killing that he executed is on 4th February 1429 that came to be regarded as the Saint Valentines Day massacre. In this case, four people dressed as police were sent to a garage in the street Clark which was the George ‘Bugs’ headquarter for the bootleg operations. Despite the fact that the guards they found retreated, Capone and his men gunned down all of them down. Another case was of Detroit where the influx of black workers in the defense plant created a lot of tension to their races but the problem exploded later.

Gangsterism became the only source of quick money yet it was very expensive as it involved the smuggling of products like alcohol through heavily guarded places. These gangsters formed their own operation squad for example Scar Face or Al Capone had an army of seven thousand and even recruited a number of the police force in his group but he was because of the attractive money that he gave them. Many gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde capitalized on the loopholes of the law to carry out their robberies but later they were gunned down in Louisiana. Other Jewish- American crimes were organized by Monk Eastman. This mostly took place in New York though it was not restricted to it. (Cohan R. 1999) Another gangster of the time was John Dillinger who organized several bank raids. During this period bank robbery was not criticized much and that is why these characters joined in this game. (Albert. 1980)

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The increased rate of alcohol consumption in the progressive era led to the rise of women reformers who were mostly concerned with the rate of family beatings, family break ups as well as increased child abuse. The policy of prohibition worked for some time and even helped people to get their health dividends. The rate of death due to alcohol related diseases went down. The law lacked proper enforcement something that led to emergence of so many anticipated activities such as bootlegging. (Kallen S.A. 2001) This was because after alcohol consumption and production was banned, its consumers still needed it and were even willing to pay an extra dollar to get it. After the prohibition law became weak and weak, the rate of deaths went up as a result of beer related diseases such as diabetes. The prohibition completely affected the brewery industries. Before the Prohibition Law there was 22 breweries but after it was lifted, only 9 of them managed to reopen.

Indeed, the 1920s was a period of increased crime ranging from bootlegging, gangsterism, and prostitution to bank robberies. The key figures behind these organized crimes were for example man like Al Capone and John Dillinger.

Work Cited

Albert. The Rise and fall of the Jewish Gangster America. New York. Hold and Rine Hard. 1980: 85.

Cohan R. Touch Jews Fathers, Sons and Gangster Dreams. London, Vintage.1999: 125- 130.

Kallen S.A. The Roaring Twenties. Green Haven Press. 2001; 105.

Luman M.D. and Gary W.P. Organized Crime. New Jersey, Prentice Hall. 1989: 71-73.

Rockwell K. Bootleggers, Mobsters and Outlaws: Crime of the 1920s and 1930s. 2005; Web.

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Sullivan, R., Ed. Mobsters and Gangsters. Organized Crime in America, From Al Capone to Tony Soprano. Life Books, New York. 2002; 56-58.

Taylor A. Organized Crime in America. The Silent Syndicate. Mesick. 1962.

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