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Organized Crime in Chicago

Beyond the Mafia

Robert M. Lombardo

Publication Year: 2012

This book provides a comprehensive sociological explanation for the emergence and continuation of organized crime in Chicago. Tracing the roots of political corruption that afforded protection to gambling, prostitution, and other vice activity in Chicago and other large American cities, Robert M. Lombardo challenges the dominant belief that organized crime in America is a descendent of the Sicilian Mafia. According to this widespread "alien conspiracy" theory, organized crime evolved in a linear fashion beginning with the Mafia in Sicily, emerging in the form of the Black Hand in America's immigrant colonies, and culminating in the development of the Cosa Nostra in America's urban centers._x000B__x000B_Looking beyond this Mafia paradigm, this volume argues that the development of organized crime in Chicago and other large American cities was rooted in the social structure of American society. Specifically, Lombardo ties organized crime to the emergence of machine politics in America's urban centers. From nineteenth-century vice syndicates to the modern-day Outfit, Chicago's criminal underworld could not have existed without the blessing of those who controlled municipal, county, and state government. These practices were not imported from Sicily, Lombardo contends, but were bred in the socially disorganized slums of America where elected officials routinely franchised vice and crime in exchange for money and votes. This book also traces the history of the African-American community's participation in traditional organized crime in Chicago and offers new perspectives on the organizational structure of the Chicago Outfit, the traditional organized crime group in Chicago._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. iii-vi


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xv

The idea for a study of organized crime in Chicago began when I was in grammar school. As a child, I had a great uncle who was not allowed to visit our home. When I asked my grandfather why we did not associate with Uncle Frank, he only replied that Uncle Frank did not work. I later found ...

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pp. 1-14

This book examines organized crime in the city of Chicago from a sociological perspective. The term organized crime is used to define the political corruption that afforded protection to gambling, prostitution, and other vice activity in large American cities from the second half of the nineteenth ...

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1. Explaining Organized Crime

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pp. 15-35

The competing alien conspiracy and ethnic succession explanations for the emergence of organized crime in America are based upon two separate but related theories of crime: cultural deviance and social disorganization. Although they are both mainstream theories, their classification is often a ...

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2. The Gem of the Prairie

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pp. 37-55

In 1670 French trader Pierre Moreau built a cabin on the site where the Chicago River empties into Lake Michigan.1 The area was called chickagou (bad smell) by the Potawatomi Indians because of the aroma of the skunk cabbage that choked the bogs draining into the river. It was not until one ...

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3. The Black Mafia

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pp. 57-78

This chapter studies the participation of African Americans in organized crime in Chicago. The history of African American involvement in organized crime is confusing, to say the least. Although a number of authors have recognized black participation in the policy (lottery) gambling racket, ...

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4. The Syndicate [IncludesImage Plates]

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pp. 79-100

The National Prohibition Enforcement Act ended the sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. The enactment of Prohibition in 1920 was the result of a one-hundred-year struggle to curtail the use of alcohol by the American public. At the time of the American Revolution, alcohol was seen ...

5. The Forty-two Gang

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pp. 101-117

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6. The Outfit

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pp. 119-147

The 1950s brought new leadership to the Capone syndicate. Things were changing. The old-timers who had known Al Capone were dead, in prison, or living in lavish suburban homes, and a new group of younger men was taking their place. These new gangsters weren’t born in Sicily, nor did they ...

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7. The Outfit as a Complex Organization

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pp. 149-165

Since the 1950s, sociologists have debated the structure of organized crime in American society. Two basic positions have emerged. The first portrays a nationwide association of Italian American criminals bound together by a rigid code of conduct within a rational, bureaucratic structure with an ...

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8. Street Crew Neighborhoods

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pp. 167-193

The connection between neighborhood areas and organized crime is well established in the criminology literature. Delinquency areas, racket subcultures, and defended neighborhoods have all been found to contribute to the continuation of traditional organized crime in American society. In ...

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pp. 195-209

This study has demonstrated that traditional organized crime in America is not the result of a transplanted Sicilian Mafia but is directly related to the social conditions that were found in American society during the early years of the twentieth century. This argument is supported by the fact that ...


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pp. 211-245


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pp. 247-257

About the Author, Production Notes, Back Cover

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p. 259-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094484
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037306

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Organized crime -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • Criminals -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • Gangs -- Illinois -- Chicago.
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