Organized Crime is a term that has been used selectively in the twentieth century to identify particular criminal associations that were often ethnically based and were often connected to dangerous illegal conspiracies. Generally speaking, the criminal groups identified as “organized crime” have possessed neither the hierarchical structure nor the power credited to them. But the label has, nevertheless, strongly influenced both popular attitudes toward the groups involved and the policies of law enforcement. The history of “organized crime,” therefore, must include both a history of criminal structure itself and of the use of the term.
From the 1860s until well into the twentieth century, certain types of gambling became increasingly coordinated in some urban neighborhoods. During and after the Civil War, policy gambling gained wide popularity. This type of gambling is a kind of illegal lottery. Fans could bet on the numbers in bars, barber shops, newspaper kiosks, and other neighborhood outlets. At the same time, policy entrepreneurs backed the local retailers. This way, the retailer retained a fixed percent of each bet while the backers assumed the risk when betters won. By the 1880s, as horse racing became a national, professional sport, fans wished for an opportunity to bet off‐track as well as at the track (2005).
Off‐track bookmaking was coordinated much like policy, with bets taken in local retail outlets while bookmakers backed the local sellers. As a result, especially by the 1890s, policy and off‐track bookmaking organizations had the support of betters as well as local businesses and politicians. However, the activities of these important criminal entrepreneurs were not yet labeled “organized crime”.
During the Progressive‐Era, many reformers argued that the red-light districts in American cities could not exist without the systematic recruitment of thousands of young girls each year. They claimed that shadowy, organized... [continues]
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