Mafia will persist in America

Traditional Organized Crime is able to adapt.  How successful is then the recent sweep of FBI, who managed to capture more than 100 mobsters from 5 New York mafia families?

Questions:

1. Do you think that the arrest can have significant impact on the mob activities in the US or the arrested are really only a tip of an iceberg a nothing special will happen? Is this arrest  somehow special in comparison to previous sweeps?

2. Does the organized crime in the US change in time and how? In what is the present organized crime different to one 10 years ago and for example to the Golden Age of mafia?

3. There are many successful movies and books (e.g. The Godfather trilogy, The Sopranos) about the organized crime in America. Would you say the US society is somehow fascinated by this topic? And if may ask: What is your favourite movie about mafia, and why this one?

Answers:

Wayne Johnson, Associate Professor, Program Coordinator of the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration Program, Harper College, Ex-Chief Investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission

1. This arrest, while very large is not uncommon in the U.S. The effects of this case will not be known for some time. However, Traditional Organized Crime (TOC) i.e. Mafia, Mob, Outfit, Syndicate in this country is resilient and will fill any void left by incarcerations. This case will also lead investigators to other criminal enterprises that work in concert with TOC. Most common is the association between drug cartels and TOC. Also street gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs regularly associate with TOC. This case is indicative of U.S. efforts towards eradicating all Organized Crime in the U.S. We will ever accomplish this? Probably not during my life time. These groups tend to flourish in a free and democratic society.

2. Like most modern organizations, TOC will change in a ten year span. Older leaders in the group will tire of the constant pursuit of law enforcement and some will die. Some will be allowed to retire while others will become complacent and not take the precautions subscribed by other leaders and get caught up in federal investigations. But, like most organizations this allows for new blood to move into leadership roles. Often these new leaders are better educated and more savvy to the techniques used against them. The greatest change I have seen during my career is the deference of TOC investigations to federal authorities. Local agencies even in large departments have dismantled most of the squads that for decades tracked and investigated TOC. They may detail an officer or two to a federal task force, but all in all they defer to the feds. This takes the front line of law enforcement out of the fight. The street cops who know the streets and know the neighborhoods of America are no longer part of the war against TOC. Along with this redeployment of resources I have seen these same departments discard TOC files that provide a wealth of knowledge for investigators to track TOC figures and their associates. As far as the golden age of the mafia, today’s TOC is not nearly as flamboyant and bold as those of the past. No longer can they walk into city hall and demand a meeting with politicians on the payroll or meet in the open with corrupt police officials. I am not saying this is not going on, all I am saying is it has to be kept out of the public eye. The tolerance for this is gone.

3. Pop culture has made TOC books, movies and TV shows a billion dollar industry. Even in an academic setting like Harper College a course on TOC markets well not just to students seeking a degree in law enforcement, but to non-traditional students who find the topic fascinating. Personally I find only historic depictions of interest. With a history like this why would I care for fiction. My favorite movie at this time is Casino. Maybe because it is the story of Chicago mobsters that I have studied for years. Although in the near future I look forward to a Movie based on the book Supermob by my friend Gus Russo.

Rick Porello, Cleveland-area police chief and author of To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia

1. The FBI/NYPD Organized Crime Taks Force deserves great credit. This was a huge arrest  that will make quite a big dent in those crime families. It is an historic bust. However even with big arrests and sweeping convictions, the Mafia historically has adapted and persisted.

2. The Mafia adapts. As Repeal approached, the started moving from booze to  gambling. Gambling has been a mainstay.

3. Kill the Irishman! 🙂

James Finckenauer, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

1. I think it will have a significant at least short term impact. If nothing else, it sends a message that there is still considerable risk from the criminal activities identified here. Also, there is the risk presented by the turncoats – those who upon arrest agreed to become informants about the inner workings of the mob. This tends to create or at least add to the mistrust and distrust among mob members. It also says the FBI – despite the concentration on terrorism – have not forgotten about organized crime, and the publicity surrounding the arrests will send that message both to the mob and to the general public.

2. Yes, both the face and the nature of criminal activities have changed over time. The Italians and La Cosa Nostra are not the only game in town. There are a variety of criminal organizations, including especially street gangs and motorcycle gangs, that now operate on the criminal scene. Many of these organizations have an ethnic base – Russian (or more properly Eastern European and FSU), Latino, and Asian, etc. Given the ease of transportation, communication, and other global developments, their crimes can be more sophisticated, for example cybercrimes and money laundering, and so on. Drugs, gambling and extortion are still bread and butter crimes, but things like securities frauds and medical insurance frauds are now seen to be more and more prevalent.

3. Yes, there is obviously a fascination, but I don’t think it is only among American society. Some years ago, for example, when I was in Hong Kong, it was apparent that many people there had seen and were fascinated with the Sopranos. For many, that TV show defined what organized crime is like and all about. I think one of the best films about organized crime is Good Fellas. It pictures the harsh realities of the mob and what membership in the mob actually means. It is a much less romanticized version, I think, than The Godfather. The film also conveyed what the witness protection program (which is a major tool in combating organized crime) is all about.

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