Sample Essay On Organized Crime In ST. Louis
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The initial groups that fall within the term “gangs” can be seen in St. Louis as early as the late 1870s. These groups were positioned in the city’s river district in the northern part of the city; these were the areas that were subjected to more socioeconomic issues, in part due to the systems of migration and development that was occurring in St. Louis at that time. Many of the émigrés were of German and Irish descent. These sets of problems were the major contributing factors in the rise of gangs in the middle of the 20th century. Moreover, with the influx of émigrés from Europe, many of the initial members of the gangs were “white;” however, many of the gangs have now integrated African American members as well (Clayton, Sisson, Zacher 1243).
With the adoption of “Prohibition” by the turn of the 1910s, the policy inflicted a severe blow to St. Louis. Brewing was one of the city’s most extensive industries; closing down the breweries would translate into thousands of workers losing their jobs. Only the most skilled corporations, such as beer icon Anheuser Busch, were able to ride out the down cycle after shifting to trading in other products such as yeast, animal feeds, and “non-alcoholic beverages.” Workers of other breweries, such as the Lemp Brewery, would report to work only to find large chains securing the gates of their factories, and Lemp, as with other companies in the area, would not reopen again.
One of the factors other than Prohibition that caused the decrease in the number of breweries in the area was the aggressive bootlegging activities being conducted across the city. Bootlegging activities between Irish criminal groups in Old St. Louis was extensively connected to hostilities in the area. Gangs such as the Hogan Gang and Egan’s Rats were among the groups that “contributed” to the violence in the area; the territorial violence between the two resulted in more than 20 killings in fewer than two years (St Louis 250 1).
Regardless of the blood soaked Prohibition era, gangsters were significantly popular during this era. Though Hollywood glamorized the character of gangsters, the actual daily affairs of these criminals is more hostile and deglamorized. One of the defining instances on the East Side of St Louis was the final action in the “Cuckoo/Hayes” gang conflicts. Though the killings launched were designed to end the “civil war” within the “Cuckoo Gang,” the war was also a crisis point for syndicated crime in St Louis. Prior to the war, the Cuckoos were acknowledged as the city’s most dominant criminal entity; after the strife, the gang was now on equal levels with the other criminal organizations in the city. Even during the Great Depression, when people hardly had any money to spare to gamble, criminal gangs were collecting thousands in profits from its web of rackets. By 1932, “housecleaning” was a primary objective among the St. Louis gangs. The killing of Oliver Moore spun the gangs into a frenzy. The murder centered media attention on the Shelton group, after reports of Carl and Bernie Shelton harassing Moore prior to the killing (Waugh 214-216).
The migration of Italian criminal gangs from New Orleans began in the immediate wake of the end of the Civil War. Extortion activity was already being reported in the city in 1876. However, the Italian “criminal gangs” would not control syndicated criminal activities in the city until after the discontinuance of Prohibition in 1933. However, aside from Egan’s Rats and the Hogan Gang, other criminal gangs involved in the city were the “Pillow Gang, the Cuckoos, and the Sicilian Green Ones (Machi, May, Molino 1).
The “Green Ones” derived their name from the agrarian communities in Italy, where the members of the group are from. The heads of the group, John and Vito Giannola, and Alphonse Palizzola, were associated with the Stoppagleria bloc of the Sicilian Mafia. Shortly after establishing themselves in their new homelands, the three proceeded to take control of the affairs of the Italian community in the area, imposing their will with brute force. For example, Vito attempted to take control of the city’s large scale meat industry. One distributor “rebelled” against the three; the distributor’s body was found brutally killed to serve as a deterrent to those that might want to do the same.
The “Pillow Gang,” one of the earliest criminal organizations in St. Louis, was established by Carmelo Fresina, the name of the group coming from the fact that Fresina had to carry a pillow to sit on after being shot in the posterior. However, Senator Estes Kefauver, years after Fresina’s killing, summed up the gangster’s life and career; two bullets to the head and apparently not needing the pillow. Historians note that in the years 1910-1914, there was no effective leadership structure among the gangs in the city. “Freelancing” had become the practice of the Mafia elements in the city.
After the death of Mafia leader Pasquale Santino, Fresina assumed the headship of the group and allied the group with a faction of the “Green Ones” led by Tony Russo. The combined group then waged a bitter war against the main Green Ones gang. After some time, after the eradication of the Giannolas, Fresina and some members of the gang came to meet at a Russo faction member. Rumors spread that Fresina had forged an agreement with the remaining “Green One” members, leaving the Russo bloc with a feeling of being betrayed. The remaining “Green Ones” battled Fresina until the bloc caved in 1932; “Pillow Gang” members again fought “Green Ones” members after the latter were blamed for Fresina’s killing in 1932.
Formed initially as a political group by Senator Thomas Kinney and Fifth Ward Committeeman Thomas Egan, the political character of the group slowly changed into a more criminal “color.” Initial “political activities” of the group was inclusive of such actions as larceny, theft, and stealing from rail road cars. In 1921, in the aftermath of a violent reprisal war, adversaries evened the score with the leader of the “Rats”, gunning down Willie Egan after leaving a bar on the city’s 14th Street and Franklin Avenue.
The “Rats” accused the leader of the rival “Hogan Gang,” Edward “Jellyroll” Hogan, for Egan’s death. The revenge of the “Rats” was swift and bloody. John Doyle, an assassin for the Hogan gang, was killed in 1922; Hogan lawyer Jacob Mackler was killed after 15 shots was pumped into his car. The retaliation of the groups for attacks launched on each other lasted for two years, causing the deaths of 23 gang members from both sides (Machi, May, Molino 1).
In the aftermath of 9/11, the philosophy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including its St. Louis division, changed; when preventing crime was then its overriding mandate, the prevention of future attacks displaced this only held policy. In early 2002, the St. Louis Joint Terrorism Task Force was established in coordinating the efforts of local, state and national agencies in combating extremist threats. At the same time, the FBI-St. Louis office has continued to combine its thrusts in countering criminality, such as “cybercrime,” “hate crimes,” and “white collar crimes (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation 1).
Cayton, Andrew R.L., Sisson, Richard, Zacher, Chris. The American Midwest: An interpretive encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006
Federal Bureau of Investigation “A brief history.”<http://www.fbi.gov/stlouis/about-us/history-1
Machi, Mario, May, Allan, Molino, Charlie “St. Louis, MO.” <http://americanmafia.com/Cities/St_Louis.html
STL 250. “Dry, Weary years into a new St. Louis.” <http://www.stl250.org/crash-course-dry-weary-years.aspx
Waugh, Daniel. The Gangs of St. Louis: Men of Respect. Stroud: The History Press, 2011
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