Prohibition: Growth of Organized Crime and Undermining of the Public Morality

Topics: Prohibition in the United States, Temperance movement, Alcoholic beverage Pages: 6 (2484 words) Published: February 23, 2011
How did Prohibition aid the growth of organised crime, and how, in turn, did this undermine the strongly entrenched public morality informing the prohibition debate?

To try and understand ‘prohibition’ and its impact upon the country and its people we need to first have a look at some background information of events that led up to Prohibition becoming law in 1920, and how organised crime played its part in undermining these laws. Between 1901-1913 1.1 million Sicilians emigrated abroad, 800,000 of these end up on American shores. Inevitably with such large numbers arriving, it was only a matter of time before communities started to appear. Within these communities still lay the ideologies of their previous existences, with Sicilains the main ones being organised crime and protection rackets. This was something they were used too and to a degree probably expected, even with their new start. With the majority of Italian Immigrants landing at Ellis Island, New York it was only a matter of time before they made their presence felt. With language and cultural barriers to overcome they tended to stick together in their newly formed communities. One of the main communities they formed, which was to be known as ‘Little Italy’ was situated in the Mulberry bend area off Mulberry Street in New York. This was a run down area which had been an Irish slum since the 1830’s. The Irish start to vacate this area once the Sicilians move in. When they do the standard of living increases substantially, house and rental prices start to rise, sanitation is introduced as well as education. This area is made more famous by the 2002 film ‘Gangs of New York’ directed by Martin Scorcese, in which it shows the battle for the streets around the infamous ‘Five points’. This is a very good film that shows the hardships, crime, racial segregation and violence and hatred that was going on in the U.S at this time, especially towards immigrants. Now this area is becoming more prosperous the ‘Mafia’ now become very interested in it. At first they only concentrate on certain trades such as Olive oil and artichokes, which leads onto the ‘Artichoke War. Eventually when the ‘Capos’ earn enough money they expand their organisations and move to new areas. So between 1900-1910 there is a slow growth in organised crime. To try and combat this rise in organised crime the U.S government started to set up special agencies to try and deal with them. People like Joe Petrosino began to become pioneers in the fight against organised crime using new techniques of policing and a lot of undercover work. He was very successful until his assassination in Sicily on March 12th, 1909 whilst on an undercover mission. By the time the prohibiton law is introduced into the U.S the mafia have grown in influence and numbers. By 1914 New York has the largest numbers of Sicilians in the U.S. and more and more of New York is now controlled by gangs, not just mafia, but Jewish and Irish also. After the end of WW1 the mafia now has access to semi automatic weapons as well, making them more feared and deadlier than before. With money seemingly no object they grow their sphere of influence throughout most of the U.S major cities. They begin to infiltrate the police forces, even intimidating witnesses or buying juries off with sums of money to avoid prosecution. The mafia now control the cities. The F.B.I is set up around 1911 to try and combat organised crime within the U.S. When Prohibition finally comes to the U.S. this just ultimately provided another opportunity for organised syndicates to cash in. Between the years 1919-1933 the sale, transportation, and manufacture of alcohol was prohibited throughout the United States. This was fuelled by a Temperance movement within the States at this time. A temperance movement is a social movement urging reduced use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance movements may criticize excessive alcohol use, promote complete abstinence, or pressure the...
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