Mafia Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, crime has existed in many different forms and has been committed by not only individuals, but by groups as well. Crime is something that knows no boundaries; it exists in all cultures, is committed by all races, and has existed in all time periods. Crime exists as a part of the economic institution and is a lifestyle for many people. (The True Story) Crime also exists in both organized and unorganized forms. Since the early 1930’s, “organized” crime has existed in the United States. The following will show where, when, and why the Mafia came to the United States, and how some of the most reckless street gangs of today are just continuing what these groups started many decades ago.
In the seventeenth century, Arab forces occupied Sicily. The native Sicilians were oppressed and took refuge in the surrounding hills. The Sicilians formed a secret society to unite the natives against the Arab and Norman invaders. This secret society was called Mafia after the Arabic word for refuge. The society’s intentions were to create a sense of family based on ancestry and Sicilian heritage. In the 1800’s, pictures of a black hand were distributed to the wealthy. This was an unspoken request for an amount of money in return for protection. If the money wasn’t paid, the recipients could expect violence such as kidnappings, bombings, and murder. By the nineteenth century, this society grew larger and more criminally oriented.
Gangs of today have similar roots to yesterday. Gangs in one form or another have been around for hundreds of years. Pirates were probably some of the original bad gangs. (An Overview of Gangs) Most gangs were formed years ago as small groups of people who shared common interests, like today, but for more productive purposes. Some say reasons for joining gangs are to gain identity, discipline, recognition, love, belonging, and money. (An Overview of Gangs) But some say feelings of fear; hatred, bigotry, poverty, disenfranchisement, and the general breakdown of social values are also considered motivations for joining a street group. Yet some join for the simple reason that other kids join 4-H, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. (Gang Violence and Prevention)
Italians fleeing for the United States were well aware there was money to be made in the US through extortion, prostitution, gambling and bootlegging. Every large city, including Pittsburgh, soon had its own Mafia chapters. Prohibition, which was a legal ban on the manufacturer and sale of intoxicating drinks, generated a wave of illegal activity since there was big money to be made. (Omerta?) Stefano Monestero founded the Pittsburgh faction of La Cosa Nostra in 1926. He was successful in the usual mob rackets like protection, money, gambling, and bootlegging. (Exactly What Is The Mafia?) In the 1940’s, a census ranked Pittsburgh third behind Chicago and New York in terms of Italian- American Population. (26 American Mafia Cities) During this time, gangsters openly flaunted their wealth and power. This period established many young men as leaders in the New Age American Mafia.
Goals of the new age gangs like the “Bloods” or the “Crips” are not far from what the Italian- American Mafia did in the 1930’s. Gangbangers were also out to make a cheap buck. Over the last several years, gangs have made an evolution from being turf and brotherhood oriented to now being involved in one way or another with criminal enterprises. Some sell drugs, some steal cars, some brutalize and rob, and some do all of the above. (An Overview of Gangs)
In the Mafia, as much as remains the same from one continent to the other as is the Sicilian Mafia and the American Mafia, there are some major differences between the two. The American Mafia was founded on a sense of loyalty and respect for culture, family and the Sicilian heritage. The Mafia was to protect its members interests and grant them freedom in business in exchange for absolute loyalty and submission into the “family”. (Exactly What Is the Mafia?)
The Sicilian Mafia was based on the belief that justice, honor and vengeance are for a man to take care of, not a government to take care of. The Sicilian Mafia valued the code of “omerta”, the code of honor of silence and strictly adhered to the ruling that this was a secret society, open only to those who shared Sicilian blood. In contrast to the noble Sicilian Mafia, the American Mafia has proved to be a conniving, cold-hearted organization. The American Mafia consists of a large group of glorified thieves, pickpockets, and murders. Although it began with the adaptation of much of the Sicilian heritage it has evolved into an organization that’s sole purpose is to make money using any illegal means possible. The members of the American Mafia use extortion, bootlegging, prostitution, gambling, kidnapping, and murder to achieve their ends.
Unlike the Mafia, street gangs of today’s sole purpose are to fight with other groups. It must be understood that it is not illegal to be in a gang and indeed many adults are currently involved in activities that meet Webster’s definition for a gang. However, many gangs of today, especially youthful gangs, break the law to provide funding for gang activities or to further the gangs reputation on the street. (An Overview of Gangs) Groups that may have started out as a delinquent band of neighborhood toughs have now turned into a violent drug gang, some of who retain a gang identity for enforcement, collection, or other reasons. Joining a group known to have a reputation, good or bad, gives a kid looking for a purpose or something to belong to. Several years ago, a pecking order within a gang may have been established by flying fists. Now it is settled by flying lead. (Los Angeles Gangs)
The Italian Mafia has one of the most recognizable reputations in history. For example, if you had Mafia connections in the 1930s, no matter how weak you were, no one messed with you. The Mafia, who had no respect for anyone’s well being, would kill at the drop of a hat. Al Capone, who was getting very rich while other mobsters were losing money, fell out of favor with other Mafia gangsters and several attempts were made on his life. Capone took revenge by staging the infamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre in which he killed several of his enemies ending resistance to his continuing business dealings. He was finally sentenced for tax evasion and spent most of his eleven-year sentence in Alcatraz. (Al Capone)
Of street gangs, a reputation extends not only to each individual, but also to the gang as a whole. Upon interview, many gang members embellish their past gang activity in an attempt to impress their conversation partner. Gang members freely admit crimes and it has been my experience that most in fact do embellish their stories to enhance their feeling of power. Respect is sought for not only the individual, but for ones gang, family, territory, and various other things, real or perceived in the mind of the gangbanger. Some gangs require, by written or spoken regulation, that the gang members must always show disrespect to rival gang members. It must be understood that in gang culture, no challenge goes unanswered. Many times, drive-by shootings and other acts of violence follow an event perceived as disrespect. A common occurrence is a confrontation between a gang and a single rival gangbanger. However, if a group of individuals are together committing either random or pre-planned violence, aren’t they a gang? In gangbanging, today’s witness is tomorrows suspect, is the next day’s victim.
The above research has shown that the Mafia and today’s common street gangs have become a wide spread problem. These two groups have continued to grow and infest our society from the early 1900’s. It continues to exploit and destroy the honest citizens of our country. Now, these criminal organizations not only control the adults of our communities but have begun , through the sale and distribution of narcotics, to control our children. Crime organizations must be stopped however this is a difficult task. They have infiltrated members of our government and law enforcement agencies with the lure of money. Unfortunately crime does pay in many instances. It is up to each of us to not look the other way, but be aware that there are really no victimless crimes. One way or another, we all pay either by higher taxes or by a more violent society.