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The Prohibition made these mobsters however more daring and they begun to become involved in criminal operations that affected the American communities as well. Aside the Prohibition, it has to be stated that at that time, the United States was also facing severe economic problems. This was as such the moment organized crime was born. There were numerous nations conducting illicit operations during Prohibition, including the Irish, the Jews, the Poles, the Germans or even native-born Americans, but due to their superiority and the large portion owned in the underworld, the Italians are the most notable ones.
In 1920, just at the legislation for forbidding manufacturing, commercialization and consumption of alcohol was enforced, Johnny Torrio commenced rum-running and bootlegging operations (both concepts refer to illegal traffic of alcohol, with the difference that rum-running involves transportation by water and bootlegging involves transportation by land). Torrio was recognized for his entrepreneurial skills and it was due to these abilities that he managed to create a strong distribution scheme. He, for instance, employed all his political connections to ensure the success of his operations and he used the principle of divide and conquer to better control the Chicago districts. "Known as a "calm, poised, efficient businessman," Torrio built strong alliances with political leaders in Chicago and its suburbs, created a system of cooperation between various gangs by dividing the city into spheres of influence, and generally systematized the manufacture and distribution of alcohol in much of the city. As a result, by 1924, Torrio had become the undisputed "overlord" of the underworld."
Torrio united the Chicago gangs into a union similar to the today's cartels and assigned clear responsibilities and territorial delimitations. Problems emerged from both within as well as outside the Outfit. For instance, the clans not included in the cartel wanted a part of the profits. Then, each gang in the cartel wanted to increase its share of the profits and frequently crossed the boarders into the territories of other gangs. Violent conflicts emerged and often ended with deaths. At that time, there were seven other gangs in the city that formed the cartel:
the North Siders, east of the Chicago River's north branch, led by Dion O'Banion
the Guilfoyle gang, on the north side of the western branch of the river the Gennas in Little Italy, near the Taylor Street
the West Side O'Donnells, located on the highly Irish populated West Side
the Druggan-Lake gang, on the Near Southwest Side
the Saltis-McEarlane gang by the stockyards, and finally the Sheldon gang, on the south side of the Irish belt
The fact that Torrio was the "overlord" of the liquor industry automatically propelled him to the peaks of the most powerful men in Chicago. This situation came to being for the simple reason that whoever controlled the alcohol also controlled gambling and prostitution, occurring in the facilities located in the southern part of the city.
But Torrio's power was short-lived as he became the target of a 1925 assassinate attempt. He survived, but was extremely weakened, so he handed over his position to Alphonse Gabriel "Al," "Scarface" Capone. At the time Al Capone became leader, the Chicago underworld was tormented by a violent shooting war between gangs. In the war, several gangs were dissolved and the members joined Capone; other gangs left town, whereas others continued to remain Capone's enemies. The gang wars continued throughout several years, but by 1931, Capone had managed to take over the North Side and became the undisputed leader of the Chicago underworld.
The Outfit had expanded his operations outside the city as well, selling and buying alcohol-based beverages to and from locations such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Kentucky, Iowa and even Canada; he also traded beer and hard liquors with other gangs in the Chicagoan suburbs. Foremost, foreseeing the end of the Prohibition, Capone turned his attention once again to gambling, prostitution and protection rackets.
It has to be mentioned that throughout the 1920s, the members of the Chicago underworld could not be apprehended by the federal Bureau of Investigation as the latter were never able to gather sufficient evidence. Foremost, local police and the gangs had a tight relationship, which allowed bootlegging and vice operations to flourish. Policemen received the highest bribes in history to turn a blind eye to the underworld operations. With corruption at political levels skyrocketing, many situations were reported when the politicians were at the mercy of the underworld, rather than having an ability to control the scene. This agenda was even supported by the Chicago Mayor, William "Big Bill" Thompson, who had his mind set on reshaping Chicago as a "wide-open city. Vice operations were permitted to flourish, and organized crime became even more widespread with the proliferation of bootlegging enterprises during Prohibition. Because of this unofficial alliance between local politicians and gangsters, Al Capone and his syndicate were largely untouchable by the local law enforcement officials during most of the 1920s, and federal agents were never able to amass sufficient evidence to secure Capone's indictment for violating the Volstead Act, the law implementing Prohibition."
In 1931 however, frustrated with the corruption and incapability of the local authorities, the federal government launched a two step assault on Al Capone. In the first offensive, the Prohibition agents attacked Capone's breweries; in the second offense, the agents of the Internal Revenue Service put together a strong case of tax evasion -- in the most successful years of operations, Capone's Outfit had registered profits of millions of dollars. He was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta in May 1932 and then transferred to Alcatraz. His place was taken by Frank Nitti.
Statistically, the city of Chicago was not registering skyrocketing criminality rates during the 1920s and 1930s. But still, the city's reputation was growing to that of nest for criminality and vice, dressed in myth and symbol. Writers have even argued that the situations encountered in the southern side of Chicago were not uncommon to other American cities, but that, in fact, Chicago was representing everything that was American -- from the desire for a better future to the measures one has to take to make this dream a reality -- but at a higher level. "The myths of Chicago crime were compelling because they spoke to larger concerns -- about morality, economic competition, ethnicity, sexuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and its dangers."
4. After the Prohibition
Despite the incarceration of its leader, the Outfit continued its operations. When the Prohibition was ceased in 1933, the criminal organization reassessed its enterprises in the meaning that they returned to prostitution and gambling. Additionally, they developed new interests such as call operations, the B-Girls or narcotics. But as the effects of the 1929-1933 economic depression began to take their toll, Capone's organization realized that people were no longer able to spend the little money they had in brothels or gambling houses; the city as a whole was totaling a debt of $280,000,000 and more than 40,000 public employees were not receiving their salaries. As such, the Chicago Outfit focused on protection racketeering. In 1927 for instance, the authorities in the city reported a total of 23 organizations being controlled by racketeers; these companies were activating in various industries, including parking garages, fish and poultry stores, garbage collectors or dry cleaners. One year later, the Cook County State's Attorneys reported a total of 91 unions and trade associations being controlled by crime organizations.
The after-Prohibition endeavors of the crime organizations in Chicago also took a turn due to massive industrialization and the opening of numerous industries and factories. These consequently led to employees' demanding of more rights. Factory owners would often call members of the underworld to break labor unions and intimidate the employees and the union leaders. "Most gangsters did not infiltrate the unions as is popularly believed but were invited in by the unions themselves. Big business was no friend of organized labor and often hired underworld figures to break strikes and crash picket lines. The under-world, however, owed no loyalty to industry and frequently switched allegiance to labor in return for the appointment of racketeers to positions of authority within the union itself."
At this stage, many gangs had been dissolved and their members had moved on to other lives, or were serving the time for their crimes. Several ethnicities realized that the United States offered equal opportunities for all citizens and decided to move on. They managed to move on to the middle class, raised families and sent their children to college. Yet, the underworld had not disappeared, but structural modifications occurred in the meaning that organized crimes in Chicago were mostly the doings of the Italian clans, rather than gangs of other ethnicities.
5. 1950s and Beyond
Despite the significant reduction in criminality and the operations of the underworld due to the federal involvement and the emergence of the Great Economic Depression, the actions of the Chicago Outfit continued well beyond the 1950s. The Outfit of the…[continue]
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