Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Has the Mob Left Philly?

A recent Inquirer article detailed the near extinction of the Philadelphia family of La Cosa Nostra. From approximately 80 members in the 1980s, the Philadelphia mob has dwindled to roughly 20 "soldiers," of whom almost half are in prison. Philadelphia has but 10 mafiosi left to do the work that once took eight times as many.

Law enforcement officials would have us believe that this is the result of good police work, but don't believe it. Like cockroaches, the mob cannot be eradicated once it moves in.

No, there can be only one reason for this outcome: The mafia has departed for greener pastures.

What further proof do we need that this is a city in crisis? Of all the miserable milestones along our path to perdition, this one, above all, should give us pause.

It means that we have so little going for us that we can't even attract and keep a decent-sized organized-crime family. Things have deteriorated so badly that not even these bums want to live and commit crimes here. And it's not like we are competing against the garden spots of America for the mob's attention. Back in the 1970s, when I was an eager young prosecutor in the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, we had a strike force in every city with a mob family. These were places like Newark, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Brooklyn. Philadelphia can't even hold its place in that lineup?

To put this into context, we have a municipal budget in free fall, threatened cutbacks of city services, and whole neighborhoods that resemble Dresden after the Royal Air Force paid it a visit. The deficit is so large that Philadelphia will soon have to call itself "the city that loves you back, due to budget cuts, every other Wednesday."

And now this: The mob is voting with its feet.

But where are the mobsters going? Have they moved to the suburbs? How would that work? Would it really be possible for some thug to claim with a straight face that he is the boss of the Bryn Mawr family? I mean, where do you stuff a body in a Prius? Don't the batteries get in the way?

Of course, these and other important questions are beside the real point: Once again, Philadelphia has placed last. As with our industrial base and business community, our underworld entrepreneurs have taken a hike, leaving us to try to put a happy face on what can only be considered a major source of civic embarrassment.

Thanks to George Parry

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