Organized crime has deep roots in time. The Italian mafia was founded in Italy in the 1800’s, originally as a group of resistance fighters. Their power grew and evolved over time into the idea of organized crime that it is today. The Italian mafia, as it operates in Italy is still very powerful. As late as 1992, they were actively killing law enforcement personnel with terroristic bombing tactics. The Italian mafia found its way to the U.S. beginning in the 1900’s when IOC figures came illegally into the country. Most of them being Sicilian Mafiosi. Many of the Mafia members who came here in the early 1920s helped establish the La Cosa Nostra or the American Mafia. This is not to say that there isn’t other organized crime in this country. Beyond the American (Italian) Mafia, the FBI recognizes Eurasian, Asian and African organized crime groups active in this country.
The traditional organized criminal syndicate preyed on the vulnerability and ignorance of people. Those particularly susceptible were immigrants to this country. They were vulnerable in that most didn’t speak English and they did not understand American law. Additionally, many immigrants were fleeing from countries where they were terrorized by their governments and they lived in fear of officials such as police. They were unlikely to seek help from law enforcement. If one takes Chicago as an example of how traditional organized crime could operate, the scenario goes as follows:
Chicago was a gateway to the unsettled lands of the west and it became a funnel for young men seeking their fortune in the frontier. Saloons, gambling parlors and brothels sprang up around Chicago to “serve” these young men as they spent their final days or nights in civilization before heading into the wilderness. Immigrants flooded into and through Chicago. By the 1870’s Chicago had a well established “vice” industry (they even published a directory of such places for visitors) and immigrants a plenty, Chicago was ripe for organized crime. Roger Plant is considered Chicago’s first crime czar, but Michael Cassius McDonald organized the first criminal syndicate in Chicago. In the early 1900’s James Colosimo built the first truly Italian crime syndicate in Chicago, which was followed by the Torrio/Capone Syndicate.
The traditional organized crime syndicate relied on muscle, direct threat, fear, ignorance and overt acts of violence to achieve its goals. People are not as ignorant today and are more aware of organized crime. Has organized crime declined, or is it just hiding behind the Armani and a well-paid team of lawyers? Today’s organized crime has become more “respectable” in that it is more subtle and works the system to its advantage. They are also taking advantage of technology. The Department of Homeland Security has issued advisories about possible connections between virus attacks and organized crime or terrorists. “Organized crime is clearly looking to leverage technology,” according to Erik Laykin (president of Online Security Inc.). He points out that the intelligence community recognizes that organized crime is much more sophisticated these days than it once was – technologically speaking.