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Just for fun
1920s project - Prohibition and organized crimes
Felix Tan (4S105)
Samuel Sung (4S122)
Au Yong Jin (4S103)
Prohibition and organized crime was a dividing element in the 1920s. Due to prohibition, many anti-prohibition groups were formed and they caused social unrest in USA. Many mobs and violent ‘mini-wars’ terrorised the USA citizens and caused citizens to be terrified. Thus, it is dividing element.
Overview of prohibition and organized crimes
During the prohibition in the 1920s, consumption of alcoholic beverages was made illegal. It was outlawed by the 18th amendment, and then later it was further enforced by the Volstead Act, which imposed harsher punishments. The import and export, sale, manufacturing and transportation of alcoholic beverages were strictly restricted. Even though the aim of this was to reduce social problems, lower the crime and corruption rates and improve health and hygiene in America, it did the exact opposite. Consumption of alcohol became more dangerous, and corruption became more rampant throughout USA.
As liquor was no longer legally available, the public turned to gangsters who readily took on the bootlegging industry and supplied them with liquor. This was otherwise known as the ‘chain reaction’. On account of the industry being so profitable, more gangsters became involved in the money-making business. Crime became so organized because "criminal groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol. As a result of the money involved in the bootlegging industry, there was much rival between gangs.
Here are some statistics on how much crime got worse in the 1920s:
- Police funding: INCREASED $11.4 Million
- Arrests for Prohibition Las Violations: INCREASED 102+%
- Arrests for Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct: INCREASED 41%
- Arrests of Drunken Drivers: INCREASED 81%
- Thefts and Burglaries: INCREASED 9%
- Homicides, Assault, and Battery: INCREASED 13%
- Number of Federal Convicts: INCREASED 561%
- Federal Prison Population: INCREASED 366%
- Total Federal Expenditures on Penal Institutions: INCREASED 1,000%
An anti-Prohibition campaign poster
A stamp commemorating the Prohibition Era
Examples and Extension of the topic
By the 1920s The United States and the provinces within Canada had adopted prohibition (a law forbidding the sale of alcohol). It was during that era that North America gave birth to some of the largest crime syndicates, most vicious criminals, and mafia leaders. Al Capone, Bugs Moran, Johnny Torrio, The Purple Gang, and Peter Licavoli became household names. For the Mafia and the gangsters, prohibition meant employment, easy money, good times, shiny new cars, and new suits. The tainted money, prostitution, loan sharking, bookmarking, extortion and other criminal rackets paled in comparison to the intake from bootlegging. Prohibition created an atmosphere that allowed crime to fester, an atmosphere which the mafia exploited.
Less than a year after prohibition after the legislation was enacted, more than 900,000 cases of liquor were being shipped to the border cities for what was allowed as private consumption. In the area of Windsor, Ontario Canada alone, the per capita consumption of liquor increased from a pre- 1914 level of 9 gallons to a staggering 102 gallons by 1924 while it was technically illegal to drink. This mass consumption created a high demand for liquor products and the mafia in Canada and in The United States was able to provide for this through numerous interconnected and highly efficient transport methods.
Liquor was transported from the province of Ontario, Canada into the states in America which bordered Canada; including Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota along the Detroit River. Criminal gangs developed methods to speed up the delivery of contraband liquor and to avoid the jeopardy of the organized effort. The Mafia in North America carried out their operations on a national or corporate scale employing a system that worked like clockwork. One group arranged the purchase of liquor at the export docks along the river, another crew transported the liquor across to a designated location; a third team quickly picked up the cases of whiskey and transported them to warehouses and later another arranged the shipments to speakeasies in Detroit, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. A favorite tactic of the mafia was hijacking other gangs’ booze shipments or forcing rivals to pay them for “protection” to leave their operations alone, thus frequently if not always, armed guards accompanied the caravans that delivered the liquor.
The aerial rum runners were big time and gang organized under contract. Al Capone and The Purple Gang were lucratively involved in this method, since they needed swift supplies on a daily basis. It was estimated that as much as $100,000 worth of booze left Windsor and neighboring areas each month for the American landing strips. The mafia also employed the use of the railway which crossed the Detroit and St Lawrence River for more efficient transportation. Liquor was hidden within legitimate cargo or the mafia employed the use of bogus seals allowing the cars to pass undetected.
The epitome of power that the mafia held during prohibition would be felt long after its end in both the United States and Canada in the 1930s. Criminal empires which had expanded on bootleg money would find other avenues within North American life to continue to make large sums of money. Business was good and the bootlegging business even better. In the 1930s, prohibition petered out. This coincided with a declining economy and ultimately the great depression. As a result of these less than prosperous times, some of the smaller mafia factions which arose because of prohibition disappeared altogether.
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. Known as the "Capones", the group was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.
Born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrants, Capone became involved with gang activity at a young age after being expelled from school at age 14. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government figures and prostitution. Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone became a highly visible public figure. He made various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities, and was viewed by many to be a "modern-day Robin Hood".
However, Capone gained infamy when the public discovered his involvement in the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, which resulted in the death of seven of Capone's rival gang members. Capone's reign ended when he was found guilty of tax evasion, and sent to federal prison. His incarceration included a stay at Alcatraz federal prison. In the final years of Capone's life, his mental and physical health deteriorated due to neurosyphilis, a disease which he had contracted earlier. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke.
Bodies Being Removed From the Garage Where the Massacre Took Place
If one doubts the mob's or Al Capone's great impact on Prohibition, the following newspaper explains it undoubtedly. The Headline reading that a jury convicted Al Capone is bigger than one announcing the death of America's most prominent inventor - Thomas A. Edison!
Connecting the effects of Prohibition to today:
Prohibition has a few harmful effects that could still be felt today:
1) The idea that the Police could be bribed
Before prohibition was legalized, the police and law enforcement officials were often viewed in high regard. They were seen as a strong force that was incorruptible. However, once prohibition was kicked in, the organized crimes started to gain in influence and many law enforcement officials were bribed or black mailed into not arresting the criminals. This created a permanent corruption of the law enforcement, courts, politicians, whereby they were under a huge influence from the organized criminals.
This continued on even when prohibition ended, and many of the criminals were not arrested and trialled for their crimes. This could be seen from the fact that Al Capone was never charged for the Valentine Day Massacre or for any of his illegal dealings, and he was only arrested for tax evasion. In addition, his organized crime outfit, the Chicargo Outfit still exists today.
2) The erosion of religion in the United States
Evangelicals were the main force behind Prohibition. They saw alcohol as the “devil’s drink,” hating it so much they explained away their holy book’s favorable references to it (and still do today). They preached God demanded total abstinence from alcohol. Much like today with homosexuality, conservatives thought drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills. If it could be made illegal, then God would bless America.
But instead of ushering in paradise, Prohibition increased alcohol consumption and immorality, created organized crime and caused massive political corruption. As they so often are, evangelicals were wrong. They made false promises and did far more harm than good. This jaded many people towards religion.
This jaded effect still exists today and the attachment towards religion in the US has been on a decline ever since. Therefore, another strong effect of prohibition is the fact that it eroded religion in the United States.
3) The glorification of organized crimes in the mass media
The creation of organized crime was glorified during the Prohibition period, as more and more people became interested as to what was going on within an organized crime.
In addition, people began to like organized crimes, as they were able to provide what they people really want- booze. When there is a demand, there would be a supply, and it created a presence of many organized crimes that exist till today.
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