CLIO 7 (1) - page 11

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Nationally, the homicide rate per 100,000 people
rose almost two-thirds during Prohibition. It has
since been suggested that the dangerous black
market, dictated by the criminal organisation, was
the cause of this, and ultimately led to worse social
conditions in Chicago.
The rise in organised crime could be seen as
a result of the prevalent corruption amongst police
officers and government officials. Some federal
police officers and officials failed to enforce the
18th Amendment as twenty-eight states did not set
aside a single penny for Prohibition enforcement
up until 1927. Because of this and their modest
salaries, many public officials surrendered to the
exploitation of alcohol. Therefore the rate of organ-
ised crime increased as officers and officials were
more intent on earning more money than fighting
to lower the crime rate. Their work in the illegal
liquor business included them aiding and protecting
smugglers, escorting liquor trucks, and accepting
bribes. Furthermore, Charles Fitzmorris, the chief
police in Chicago, stated, "60 percent of my police
are in the bootlegging business." Although corrup-
tion amongst police officers had a profound affect
upon the number of people involved in organised
crime, without prohibition police officers would not
be as susceptible to corruption and into entering
the bootlegging business as there would not be an
attractive alternative source of income in crime.
As Prohibition shuttered 507 distilleries,
1,217 breweries and 180,000 saloons overnight, any
previously legitimate business operator in the liquor
realm who wished to continue plying his life’s trade
had to suddenly become a gangster in his own
right. Consequently, the rate of organised crime
grew, as previously legitimate business owners paid
bribes and bought product from organised crime
groups in order to protect their turf from interlop-
ers. The attraction to organised crime originated
from the fact that there was serious money to be
made in illegal liquor, and this trade was exploited
by American mobster, crime boss and businessman
Al Capone, the man who had control over ‘The Out-
fit’ in Chicago. He made somewhere in the realm of
$60-$100 million a year during prohibition from his
alcohol related business alone. As chief gangster
Al Capone sought to consolidate control, he elimi-
nated his rivals in the illegal trades of bootlegging,
gambling, prostitution and gang warfare.
Gang warfare was one of the most serious
effects of Prohibition, ruling the streets of Chicago
during the late 1920s. The struggle to take control
of organized crime in the Chicago between the Irish
American gang and the South Side Italian gang led
by Al Capone reached its bloody climax in the St.
Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. One of Capone’s
longtime enemies, the Irish gangster George “Bugs”
Moran, ran his bootlegging operations out of a ga-
rage on the North Side of Chicago. On 14th Febru-
ary, seven members of Moran’s operation were shot
down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the
garage as a total of 70 rounds of ammunition were
fired at them.
Whether it was simply through illegal business
conduct, police corruption, or gang warfare, crime
skyrocketed throughout the Prohibition. This is
because disrespect for the law grew; and the per
capita consumption of prohibited alcohol increased
dramatically as a result. It is obvious that this “noble
experiment” was a failure on all accounts as rea-
sonable measures were not taken to enforce the
laws- thus they were practically ignored. Moreover,
people flagrantly violated the law, drinking more
in speakeasies than what was originally prohibited.
The problems prohibition intended to solve, such as
crime, social issues, the tax burden created by pris-
ons and poorhouses, and health only grew worse
and they failed to return to their pre-prohibition
levels.
Jasnam Singh 12D
The Front Page of ‘The American Issue’ printed on
25th January 1919
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