African-American Organized Crime & Today’s Youth Gangs
African-American organized crime, although present, has not maintained a true record of its existence. The amount of information that is known is relatively small but informative. These organization are believed to have been in place for at least a century. These organizations were important to the African-American community just as it was important to the organized crime syndicates of the Italian, Irish, and Jewish communities.
It is believed by many that organized crime in the African-American community is not as well recognized because of the lack of structure that other criminal organizations, such as the Italians, have. Gunnar Myrdal noted in his book An American Dilemma that: “The policy game started in the Negro community and has a long history. During most of its history the policy racket in the Negro community has been monopolized by Negroes. Otherwise respectable businessmen have had a controlling interest in the number racket”. (Lyman & Potter, 2004)
Gambling was a huge market for African-American organized crime. In the mid 1930s both Chicago and New York Italian organization were realizing the huge profits black gambling operations were making. After that Italians moved in and took over those gambling rings. After that African-Americans represented organized crime in black neighbors while allowing white syndicates to gain police and political protections. After gambling came drug distribution. In the mid 1970s blacks depended on Italian drug smugglers for all of their drugs this was until they began to establish working relationships with Colombian and Cuban traffickers.
Some of the bigger leader of different criminal organization were black. For example the well known organized crime group the “Forty Thieves” was lead by a black woman by the name of Madame St. Clair. This group was responsible for starting a huge extortion ring in the 1930s, running a series of major numbers banks in Harlem and distributing cocaine all the way up to New York’s high society.
Then in Chicago their was African American Edward P. Jones who started as a runner in the numbers game then borrowed $15,000 to start his own numbers bank. By the 1930s he was running a daily play of $15,000 which made his numbers bank the largest in Chicago. Two black men named William “Gus” Greenlee and William “Woogie” Harris are credited with introducing the numbers game ot the Pittsburgh are in the 1920s. Melvin Clark was an African-American from Newport, Kentucky who ran a major share of the betting action refusing to share any of the action with the seemingly “more powerful” white organized crime figures. (Lyman ; Potter, 2004)
As of the present the African-American criminal activity is licked to the phenomenon of the “youth gang”. It was major during the 1950s but has not re emerged around the 1980s. This is an expanded segment of organized crime that is representing a very violent change. Many black figures in organized crime are linked to these gangs. There has been some difficulty determining how many youth gangs there are, but a study by the National Institute of Justice in 1991 estimated that there were 3,876 gangs with around 202,981 members. Another report from Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office at this same time stated that more than half of LA’s black population between the ages of 21 and 24 were involved in these gangs. (Lyman ; Potter, 2004)
There have been multiple causes linked to the existence of youth gangs. When speaking of past youth gangs the major influences were socioeconomic with factors such as race, social class, limited economic advantages, and immigration. When the 1980s came it was believed the big reason for the rise of youth gangs again was the drugs cocaine powder and crack. Some of the causes given by Orlando-Morningstar for the thirty years include: (as cited by Lyman ; Potter, 2004)
* Removal of manufacturing plants from the city
* Migration of middle class minority families from urban centers to more affluent suburbs, destabilizing the middle class neighborhoods in the city.
* Increased density of segregated minority populations in the city.
* Employer discrimination and wage gaps in service jobs in the city
* Loss of federal and state social services in the city
* Increases in the number of youths of gang age, without commensurate increases in community infrastructure for supervising those youths
Since traditional avenues of production seem to be lost of youths they choose to turn to street gangs as a source of income, acceptance, identity, and status. It is said that about four out of five street gang members were either African-American or Hispanic. This belief stems from the fact that many of the inner city areas were dominated by these two groups and also housed many of the youth gangs. (Lyman ; Potter, 2004).
African-Americans in youth gangs today are mostly led by drugs and gambling. They reach for the power of money and acceptance into a “family because of the situation they are in. This is not always the case , but is believed to be a major cause. The majority of inner city areas where these gangs develop are populated by African-Americans. Although some African-Americans have been linked to organized crime of the past, most information has been lost, because of the Italian take over of many black organized crime groups. Youth gangs may never have the power that big organized crime groups have they are still considered a stem of organized that happens to be controlled mostly by minorities in the United States. These street gangs will probably always exist as they fluctuate in popularity, but they will never have the same power has the bigger “white” syndicates have.
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