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Discussion: Contemporary Academic Perspectives on the Black Mafia and African-American Organized Crime

Part of the Studies of Organized Crime book series (SOOC, volume 2)

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Organize Crime Organize Crime Group Primary Source Data Organize Crime Activity Black Metropolis 
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References

  1. 1.
    This narrative is adapted from Sean Patrick Griffin, “Philadelphia’s ‘Black Mafia’: Assessing and Advancing Current Interpretations”, Crime, Law and Social Change, forthcoming 2003.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Alan A. Block, “History and the Study of Organized Crime”, Urban Life: A Journal of Ethnographic Research, vol. 6 (January 1978), pp. 455–474, “Organized Crime: History and Historiography”; James D. Calder, “Al Capone and the Internal Revenue Service: State-sanctioned Criminology of Organized Crime”, Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 17, no. 1 (1992), pp. 1–23; John F. Galliher and James A. Cain, “Citation Support for the Mafia Myth in Criminology Textbooks”, American Sociologist, vol. 9 (May 1974), pp. 68–74; Gordon Hawkins, “God and the Mafia”, The Public Interest, vol. 14 (1969), pp. 24-51; James A. Inciardi, Alan A. Block and Lyle A. Hallowell, Historical Approaches to Crime: Research Strategies and Issues (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1977); William H. Moore, The Kefauver Committee and the Politics of Crime (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1974); Jonathan Rubenstein and PeterReuter, “Fact, Fancy and Organized Crime”, Public Interest, vol. 53 (1978), pp. 45–67; and Dwight C. Smith, The Mafia Mystique (New York: Basic Books, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See, for example, Howard Abadinsky, Organized Crime sixth edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000); Frank E. Hagan, Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002); Philip Jenkins and Gary Potter, “The Politics and Mythology of Organized Crime: A Philadelphia Case Study”, Journal of Criminal Justice, vol. 15 (1987), pp. 473–484; William Kleinknecht, The New Ethnic Mobs: The Changing Face of Organized Crime in America (New York: The Free Press, 1996); Don Liddick, The Mob’s Daily Number: Organized Crime and the Numbers Gambling Industry (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999); Michael D. Lyman and Gary W. Potter, Organized Crime second edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2000); Gary W. Potter and Philip Jenkins, The City and the Syndicate: Organizing Crime in Philadelphia (Lexington, MA: Ginn Custom Publishers, 1985); Gary W. Potter, Criminal Organizations: Vice Racketeering, and Politics in an American City (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1994); and Rufus Schatzberg and Robert J. Kelly, African American Organized Crime: A Social History (New York: Garland, 1996).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I have not taken the time to examine “second generation” articles and books that are based upon works relying on the Commission reports. For example, George F. Cole and Christopher E. Smith, Criminal Justice in America third edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002), discuss organized crime among various ethnic groups based on Kleinknecht’s The New Ethnic Mobs, and the Commission’s reports are not mentioned or cited. Thus, the Commission’s findings are likely more widely utilized than I have illustrated.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pennsylvania Crime Commission (PCC), A Decade of Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: 1980 Report; Annual Report (1988); Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: 1990 Report; Annual Report (1991), Conshohocken, PA: PCC.Google Scholar
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    Pennsylvania Crime Commission, A Decade of Organized Crime in Pennsylvania, p. 18.Google Scholar
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    Pennsylvania Crime Commission, Annual Report (1988), p. 15.Google Scholar
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    Jay S. Albanese, Organized Crime in America third edition (Cincinnati: Anderson, 1996), pp. 182–183. On the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, and on crime commissions in general, see Charles H. Rogovin and Frederick T. Martens, “The Role of Crime Commissions in Organized Crime Control”, in Robert J. Kelly, Ko-Lin Chin, and Rufus Schatzberg (eds.) The Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994), pp. 389–400.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. 12. On the demise of the Commission, see George Anastasia, “Pa. Crime Commission Ready to Cap Its Poisoned, Pithy Pen”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 19, 1993, p. C01.Google Scholar
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    There is not much debate as to the detrimental impact of recurring violence on an organized crime group. For an analysis of this phenomenon, see Peter Reuter, Disorganized Crime:The Economics of the Invisible Hand (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), pp. 144–145.Google Scholar
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    Pennsylvania Crime Commission, Organized Crime in Pennsylvania, p. 229.Google Scholar
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    This narrative isadapted from Sean Patrick Griffin, “‘Emerging’ Organized Crime Hypotheses in Criminology Textbooks”, Journal of Criminal Justice Education (forthcoming 2003).Google Scholar
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    See Appendix J for a complete listing of textbooks reviewed.Google Scholar
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  19. 21.
    John E. Conklin, Criminology fifth edition (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1995), p. 357.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    George F. Cole, The American System of Criminal Justice sixth edition (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1992), p. 74.Google Scholar
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    Larry. J. Siegel, Criminology seventh edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), p. 415.Google Scholar
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    Stephen E. Brown, Finn-Aage Esbensenand Gilbert Geis, Criminology: Explaining Crime and Its Context fourth edition (Cincinnati: Anderson, 2001), p. 485.Google Scholar
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    Frank Schmalleger, Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001), p. 70.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Robert D. Pursley, Introduction to Criminal Justice fifth edition (New York: Macmillan, 1991); Gennaro F. Vito and Ronald M. Holmes, Criminology: Theory, Research, and Policy (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994); Jay Livingston, Crime and Criminology second edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996); Clemens Bartollas and Michael Braswell, American Criminal Justice: An Introduction second edition (Cincinnati: Anderson, 1997); and Dean J. Champion, Criminal Justice in the United States second edition (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1998).Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Howard Abadinsky, Crime and Justice: An Introduction (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1987); Joseph J. Senna and Larry J. Siegel, Introduction to Criminal Justice sixth edition (Minneapolis-St.Paul: West, 1993); Lydia Voigt, William E. Thornton Jr., Leo Barrile and Jerrol M. Seaman, Criminology and Justice (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994); Leonard Glick, Criminology (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1995); and Leonard Territo, James B. Halsted and Max L. Bromley, Crime and Justice in America: A Human Perspective fifth edition (Boston: Oxford, 1998).Google Scholar
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    James A. Inciardi, Criminal Justice seventh edition (Orlando: Harcourt Brace, 2002), p. 90.Google Scholar
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    Ronald J. Berger, Marvin Free and Patricia Searles, Crime, Justice and Society: Criminology and the Sociological Imagination (New York: %McGraw-Hill, 2001), p. 319.Google Scholar
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    Larry K. Gaines and Roger LeRoy Miller, Criminal Justice in Action (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003), p. 9.Google Scholar
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    Frank E. Hagan, Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002), p. 448.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 448.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Walter S. DeKerseredy and Martin D. Schwartz, Contemporary Criminology (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996); Piers Beirne and James Messerschmidt, Criminology third edition (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000); Joseph F. Sheley (ed.), Criminology third edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000); and Steven M. Coxand John E. Wade, The Criminal Justice Network: An Introduction fourth edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002).Google Scholar
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    Jeffrey Scott McIllwain, “From Tong War to Organized Crime: Revising the Historical Perception of Violence in Chinatown”, Justice Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 1 (March 1997), p. 29. McIllwain (p. 52) amalgamated two existing lists of organized crime characteristics, each one a previously-collated effort, resulting in his comprehensive list of eleven organized crime attributes: nonideological; organized hierarchy and/or continuing enterprise; violence; restricted membership; rational profit through illegal activities; public demand, corruption and/or immunity; monopoly; specialization; code of secrecy; and extensive planning. See Albanese, Organized Crime in America, and Dennis J. Kenney and James O. Finckenauer, Organized Crime in America (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1995). The lists compiled information from the following sources in chronological order: 1950/1951 — Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, Senator Estes Kefauver, Chair; 1963—Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Senator John L. McClellan, Chair; 1966—New York State Oyster Bay Conferences (as cited in Smith, The Mafia Mystique); 1967—Task Force on Organized Crime, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice; 1968—Omnibus Crime and Safe Streets Act (Public Law 90–351); 1969—Donald R. Cressey, Theft of the Nation: The Structures and Operation of Organized Crime (New York: Harper & Row); 1975—Smith, The Mafia Mystique; 1976—Task Force on Organized Crime, National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals; 1976—Joseph L. Albini, “Syndicated Crime: Its Structure, Function, and Modus Operandi,” in Francis A.J. Ianni and Elizabeth Reuss-Ianni (eds.), The Crime Society: Organized Crime and Corruption in America (New York: Times-Mirror), pp. 24—41; and 1983—President Ronald Reagan’s Commissionon Organized Crime.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See, for example, Michael D. Maltz, “On Defining ‘Organized Crime’,” Crime and Delinquency, vol. 22 (1976), pp. 338–346; Mark H. Haller, “Illegal Enterprise: A Theoretical and Historical Interpretation,” Criminology, vol. 28, no. 2 (May 1990), pp. 207–235; Petrus C. Van Duyne, “Organized Crime and Business Crime-Enterprises in the Netherlands, “ Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 19, no. 2 (1993), pp. 103–142; R.T. Naylor, “Mafias, Myths, and Markets: On the Theory and Practice of Enterprise Crime,” Transnational Organized Crime, vol. 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), pp.1–45.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    See, for example, Jenkins and Potter, and Frederick T. Martens, “African-American Organized Crime, An Ignored Phenomenon,” Federal Probation, vol. 54, no. 4 (1990).Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Potter, and Frederick T. Martens, “African-American Organized Crime, An Ignored Phenomenon,” Federal Probation, vol. 54, no. 4 (1990) Martens, p. 44.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    The President’s Commission on Organized Crime, The Impact: Organized Crime Today (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, April, 1986), pp. 79, 177.Google Scholar
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    Philip Jenkins and Gary Potter, “The Politics and Mythology of Organized Crime: A Philadelphia Case Study,” Journal of Criminal Justice, vol. 15 (1987), p. 483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 41.
    See, for example, James D. Calder, “Al Capone and the Internal Revenue Service: State-sanctioned Criminology of Organized Crime,” Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 17, no. 1 (1992), pp. 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 42.
    Cressey, Theft of the Nation, p. 21.Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    Frank Bovenkerk, “Organized Crime and Ethnic Minorities: Is Therea Link?” Transnational Organized Crime vol. 4 (1998), p. 112.Google Scholar
  42. 44.
    I have not included several works that essentially summarized previous research. For example, see Rufus Schatzberg, “African American Organized Crime,” in Kelly et al, The Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States, pp. 189–212; Rufus Schatzberg and Robert J. Kelly, African American Organized Crime: A Social History (New York: Garland, 1996); and Robert J. Kelly, “African-American Organized Crime: Racial Servitude and Mutiny,” in Stanley Einstein and Menachem Amir (eds.), Organized Crime: Uncertainties and Dilemmas (Chicago: Office of International Criminal Justice, 1999), pp. 271–290.Google Scholar
  43. 45.
    W.E.B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996 [1899]), pp. 378–379. For a discussion of DuBois and his work on “organized crime,” see Shaun Gabbidon, “W.E.B. DuBois and the ‘Atlanta School’ of Social Scientific Research, 1897–1913,” Journal of Criminal Justice Research, vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 1999), pp. 26–27.Google Scholar
  44. 46.
    Ibid., pp. 265–267.Google Scholar
  45. 47.
    Allan H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 76–77.Google Scholar
  46. 48.
    Ibid., pp. 187–189.Google Scholar
  47. 49.
    Mark H. Haller, “Organized Crime in Urban Society: Chicago in the Twentieth Century,” Journal of Social History, Winter 1971–1972, p. 221. In a related article, Haller cites a study that identified the “108 directors of the Chicago underworld”, of which 12 percent were African-Americans. Mark H. Haller, “Urban Crime and Criminal Justice: The Chicago Case,” The Journal of American History, vol. 57, no. 3 (December 1970), p. 620, summarizing William F. Ogburn and Clark Tibbits. “A Memorandum on the Nativity of Certain Criminal Classes Engaged in Organized Crime, and of Certain Related Criminal and Non-Criminal Groups in Chicago,” July 30, 1930, Charles E. Merriam Papers (University of Chicago Library).Google Scholar
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    Haller, “Policy Gambling, Entertainment, and the Emergence of Black Politics: Chicago from 1900 to 1940,” Journal of Social History vol. 24 (Summer 1991), pp. 719–739.Google Scholar
  49. 51.
    Rufus Schatzberg, Black Organized Crime in Harlem: 1920–1930 (New York: Garland Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  50. 52.
    Ibid., p. 137.Google Scholar
  51. 53.
    Ibid., p. 138.Google Scholar
  52. 54.
    Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: Volume II The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997 [1944]), pp. 330–333.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 940.Google Scholar
  54. 56.
    St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993 [1945]).Google Scholar
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    Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993 [1945]) Ibid., pp. 470–494. On numbers gambling among African-Americans in Detroit circa 1940, see Gustav G. Carlson, Numbers Gambling: A Study of a Culture Complex (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI: Doctoral dissertation, 1940).Google Scholar
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    Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993 [1945]) Ibid., pp. 481–484.Google Scholar
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    Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993 [1945]) Ibid., p. 484.Google Scholar
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    Harold D. Lasswell and Jeremiah B. McKenna, The Impact of Organized Crime onan Inner-City Community (New York: Policy Sciences Center, 1972).Google Scholar
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    Don Liddick, The Mob’s Daily Number: Organized Crime and the Numbers Gambling Industry (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999). Liddick deconstructed numbers workers into the following groups: bankers, controllers, collectors, pickup persons and clerks (pp. 120–121).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 151–168.Google Scholar
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    I should note that the Pennsylvania Crime Commission has documented several African-American gambling syndicates. See Pennsylvania Crime Commission (PCC), A Decade of Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: 1980 Report; and Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: 1990 Report. These were not included in my formal review because they are not “studies” per se.Google Scholar
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    Ivan Light, “Numbers Gambling Among Blacks: A Financial Institution,” American Sociological Review, vol. 42 (December 1977), pp. 892–904; and “The Ethnic Vice Industry, 1880–1944,” American Journal of Sociology vol. 42 (June 1977), pp. 464–79.Google Scholar
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    Light, “Numbers Gambling Among Blacks: A Financial Institution,” p. 892.Google Scholar
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    Mark H. Haller, “Organized Crime in Urban Society,” and Life Under Bruno: The Economics of an Organized Crime Family (Conshohocken, PA: Pennsylvania Crime Commission, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Mark H. Haller, “Recurring Themes,” in Allen F. Davis and Mark H. Haller (eds.), The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790–1940 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973), p. 285.Google Scholar
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    Barbara Meil Hobson, Uneasy Virtue: The Politics of Prostitution and the American Reform Tradition (New York: Basic Books, 1987), p. 44.Google Scholar
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    Alan A. Block, “The Snowman Cometh: Coke in Progressive New York,” Criminology vol. 17 (May 1979), pp. 75–96.Google Scholar
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    Alfred W. McCoy, Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia (Artarmon, NSW [Australia]: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 263.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 204–207.Google Scholar
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    While these “defining characteristics” of organized crime are commonly cited among scholars, this should not be interpreted as settling the issue. For instance, there is no consensus regarding what constitutes “continuity”. Continuity of a group, of a conspiracy, of a crime pattern? What duration of time, regardless of which factor is chosen? Similarly, regarding “multiple enterprises”, how many and how would this be operationally defined? For example, an organization may be grounded on narcotics trafficking while by necessity evades taxes and launders money. Furthermore, it can be argued that violence and corruption are merely “management tools” and that criminal enterprises may indeed thrive without the necessity of these tools (e.g. if law enforcement is ignorant to the problem). Petrus C. Van Duyne, Marcel Pheijffer, Hans G. Kuijl, Arthur Th.H. van Dijk and Gerard J.C.M. Bakker, Financial Investigation of Crime: A Tool of the Integral Law Enforcement Approach (The Hague, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Vermande, 2001), p. 52.Google Scholar
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    Jeremiah B, McKenna The Impaet of Organized Crime on an Inner-Cüy Community (New York: Policyt Sciences Center, 1972). Lasswell and McKenna, p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Francis A. J. Ianni, Black Mafia: Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974).Google Scholar
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    Francis A.J. Ianni and Elizabeth Reuss-Ianni, Family Business: Kinship and Social Control in Organized Crime (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1972).Google Scholar
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    Elizabeth Reuss-Ianni, Family Business: Kinship and Social Control in Organized Crime (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1972) Ibid., p. 213.Google Scholar
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    Elizabeth Reuss-Ianni, Family Business: Kinship and Social Control in Organized Crime (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1972) Ibid., p. 214.Google Scholar
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    Insights into these networks can be gleaned from a variety of sources,including the Philadelphia Police Department Organized Crime Unit’s “Black Mafia” files. Also see Metropolitan Police Department (DC), Intelligence Division, “Criminal Profile of John Brown,” January 31, 1986; and New York City Police Department, Intelligence Division, “The Black Narcotic System: A Brief History,” May 1972.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, James B. Jacobs, Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra (New York: New York University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
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    On this point, see for example Jay Albanese, Organized Crime in America, third edition (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing, 1996) and “The Mafia Mystique: Organized Crime,” in Joseph F. Sheley (ed.), Criminology third edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), pp. 265–285.Google Scholar
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    For example, union membership in the United States as of 2001 was 13.5% of the workforce, compared with 20.1% in 1983, the first year for which comparable data are available. Nancy Cleeland, “Union membership remains at 13.5%,” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2002, summarizing a 2001 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. In 2001, more of the union membership consisted of white-collar workers than previously as “labor’s traditional blue-collar base has eroded over the past twenty years.” Thomas Lee, “Joining Forces,” Anderson Independent-Mail (SC), October 29, 2001. Thus, with respect to organized crime, these figures are significant because they demonstrate why criminals in the traditional extortion rackets involving blue-collar enterprises have had their opportunities greatly reduced. The future for organized crime predicated on union strength is not bright. As a financial commentator stated, “Unions are most effective in situations where competition is minimal, capital is entrenched and technology can not replace humans... Labor, capital and technology are just too mobile (and plentiful) in a world of six billion people and instant telecommunications. It’s [not reasonable] to think you can make a cartel of some segment of the work force, raise the cost of doing business and prevent the kinds of economic changes you consider detrimental to your membership.” Daniel Akst, “A New Idea for Unions: Forget the Past,” The New York Times, December 5, 1999.Google Scholar
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    For a detailed discussion of organized crime prosecutions in Philadelphia (though applicable in other areas), see Kitty Caparella, “The Straight Dope — Drugs in Philadelphia: Federal Enforcement — A New Drug War Pays Off in Court,” (sidebar to the first of six parts) Philadelphia Daily News, October 22, 1984, Local, p. 53. Caparella chronicles the changes in philosophy of law enforcement agencies, specifically the greater coordination of local and federal authorities, additional manpower and funding for related initiatives and increased use of several legal tools.Google Scholar
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    Robert M. Lombardo, “The Black Mafia: African-American organized crime in Chicago, 1890–1960,” Crime, Law and Social Change vol. 38, no. 1 (2002), pp. 33–65.Google Scholar

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