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Organized Crime Essay, Research Paper

Are they the same?

Organized crime is bad. That statement is just about all I knew about organized crime before this assignment. I never saw any of the classic movies about the Mafia, or even bothered to read anything about them. The only kind of crime that I knew about was the kind that I could hear about on the radio, or see in my city; that s why I chose to compare earlier forms of organized crime, specifically the Mafia, to present day street gangs.

Searching for the information was one of the easiest topics that I have done, but only for the Mafia half. When I had to find more current articles about gangs in America I ran into a little bit of a problem with published sources. I couldn t find books any later than the mid 1980s. I found a lot of sources on the internet, but since they were probably just a bunch of pre-teens who were just mesmerized by the gangsta rap I decided not to use those. I instead persuaded an acquaintance to let me interview him. This took care of the rest of the information that was needed to finish the paper, except he didn t want me to use his name. I had to talk with him a few times and promise that I wasn t going to turn this paper into the police, but I wasn t going to use any incriminating information anyway.

We like to believe that we have matured as a society as the years pass. But, the chain that is society is only as strong as its weakest link. That link would be the crime organizations of America. I wanted to know if the gangland ways have changed.

The Mafia of the first half of the last century obtained money through many different means. Some of these were extortion, prostitution, gambling, drugs & alcohol, and racketeering. There are even more specific means that were used, but I am only going to focus on drugs and racketeering.

The drug of choice in the Mafia s earlier days was alcohol. Prohibition was in effect, but the public would not abandon their old ways so easily. But, like all illegal substances, you have to get them from the black, or gray, market. That market was composed of the Italian families who were experienced in getting what they wanted back in Europe. One of the mobsters in particular was none other than the infamous Al Capone. Capone made $60 million on bootlegging alone (Mob Roots 1). With all that money coming in and going, he had to keep records and make sure that all of the money was accounted for, welcome to the beginning of truly organized crime.

Another one of things that the Mafia was fond of was to take control of a specific industry. They would scare or assault business owners to back away and let another business, owned by the Mafia, to provide their services, or give a large percentage of the profits to the Mafia. The following is an excellent example of such a practice:

-Hello, I d like a word with the chairman.

The chairman asked who was speaking.

-Never mind, just somebody.

-But what do you want?

-I want . . . it s about this contract at Varapodio, this aqueduct . . ., we ve already had a word with all the other firms that want to bid, but none of them want to take part, because a friend of ours needs this contract. We are requesting you not to take part either. (Arlacchi 90)

This clearly illustrates how a business owner would be confronted about a specific job and be threatened seemingly politely out of context, but with menacing inflection. This tactic would be used in any and all business legitimate or not. But some were not so lucky; some of them had to turn over their businesses to the Mafia so they would have all of the profit (Morton 265).

Gangs in the present day are somewhat different than families of the Mafia. Today gangs make money through burglary, robbery, drugs, and racketeering (Pace IV). Two of the previous examples probably jump out because we just covered them, that s good because those are the topics I will describe gangs.

Like the Mafia, gangs are the main source for drugs in the United States. The drugs range from marijuana to crack-cocaine. Gangs mostly purchase drugs from a middleman who buys in greater quantities from a farmer or factory (Chambers 291). The drugs are then sold to the population. The sale of drugs is a fairly common and public occurrence. In fact, when I was finishing up my research for this paper I stopped at a fast food restaurant and I saw a young man get off a bus, give something to an older man standing on the sidewalk, and walk away. This struck me as strange, so I watched the young man walk away. When he looked in his hand I saw that he had a plastic bag of marijuana. This was done so matter-of-factly that I am surprised that I even noticed it.

Racketeering is also a practice of today s gangs. One such example is the International District in Seattle, WA. Gangs are not as influential as the Mafia was, however, they can still scare the business owners into paying every week or month. The gangs will go to a business, most commonly a restaurant be because they are less likely to have video surveillance, and offer protection from the local gangs. If the business does not pay, violence will follow either on the property or the employees (Wong). This is very closely related to the Mafia s practices, but this one seems less cunning.

Looking back on what I have learned, I can see that the gangs of today a lot like the earlier days of the Mafia. They both share some of the same practices and strategies for shaking money out of the working class, and they both supply the public with the drugs that our government has prohibited. Maybe this century will bring us some change.

Works Cited

Anderson, Annelise. The Business of Organized Crime. USA: Hoover Institution Publications, 1976.

Arlacchi, Pino. Mafia Business. Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. 1986.

Chambers, James A.. Blacks and Crime. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. 1995.

Klein, Malcolm W.. Street gangs and Street Workers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1977.

Morton, James. Gangland International. Lancaster Place, London: Clays Ltd. 1999.

Pace, Denny F.. Organized Crime: concepts and control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1975.

Spergel, Irving. Street Gang Work. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, Inc.. 1966.

Wong, Aaron. Personal Interview. 11 Jan 2001.

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