The Chicago Syndicate: With the Street Gangs Shooting Out of Control throughout the City, would Chicago Be Safer if the Mafia was Again in Charge?

Thursday, August 05, 2021

With the Street Gangs Shooting Out of Control throughout the City, would Chicago Be Safer if the Mafia was Again in Charge?

When I was a kid and told people not from Chicago, the city of my birth and upbringing, where I was from, it wasn’t uncommon for them to raise their arms as if holding a machine gun, murmur ratatatatatat, then utter “ Al Capone. ” Capone died in 1947, but Chicago and violence have ever after been linked. And now that link is more firmly established than ever, given the murder and shooting statistics announced at the end of every weekend in the city.

After Prohibition, crime in Chicago moved from bootlegging to gambling, prostitution, and loan-sharking. These operations were run by a group of mostly Italian and some Jewish gangsters known variously as the Syndicate, the Mob, the Boys, the Outfit, never for some reason called the Mafia.

Under the Syndicate such crime tended to be perpetrated on those who couldn’t pay their gambling or loan debts or attempted to step into territory thought to be exclusively the Syndicate’s. A friend of mine whose father had a strong taste for corruption bought a controlling interest in a few prizefighters. One thing leading to another, soon he found himself being simultaneously pursued by a murderous thug named Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Fortunately, the FBI got to him first.

Occasionally the body of someone with the hubris to betray the Syndicate would be found in the trunk of a car in a church or hotel parking lot. These crimes were horrendous but controlled, their victims carefully targeted, everyone else in the city left to go about his business.

With the uncontrolled and ubiquitous nature of current crime in Chicago, one almost feels nostalgia for old Syndicate figures such as Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik and Sam “Momo” Giancana. They might bully someone on a golf course, or take over the best tables at city steakhouses, but they didn’t shoot into crowds, hijack your car, or wantonly kill children. In their day, the local television news didn’t open with yet another mother weeping over her murdered child.

For a time much of the violence in Chicago was confined to a small number of neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides. More than 80% of such crimes in Chicago are said to be perpetrated by young black men, most of them members of rivaling gangs. Living outside those neighborhoods, one felt sad for the scores of innocent people killed but felt relatively safe oneself.

That has now changed. Muggings and murders in Chicago are now taking place in once quiet middle-class neighborhoods such as Rogers Park and even in swanky ones such as Streeterville. A new crime du jour in the city is the hit-and-run, the perpetrator as often as not driving a stolen car.

Such has been the spread of crime in Chicago, I now find I lock my door as soon as I get in my car; I leave a full space between my car and the car in front of me at stoplights, allowing room to swerve away from any potential carjackers. I don’t check my phone at stoplights. I walk the streets of Chicago warily, even in relatively safe neighborhoods, and seldom go out at night.

Meanwhile, the city’s officials—Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Police Chief David Brown, Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx —pass the buck. The mayor appears to believe that the chief problem is getting the guns off the street, but she is more likely to eliminate mosquitoes than guns from Chicago. The police chief blames Ms. Foxx for releasing people brought in for gun crimes without bail, while Ms. Foxx reports that owing to Covid her office has a backlog of some 35,000 felony cases. So the unmerry-go-round goes, where it stops nobody knows.

Where it ought to stop is at the doubtless difficult but necessary task of breaking up the city’s street gangs. Some argue that gangs are the only refuge for young black men in a country where systemic racism reigns and they are its primary victims. These young men have no jobs, it is said; education for them is a dead end, it is argued. Progress in race relations, they are told, is nonexistent. The people who propagate this nonsense call for more programs: in mentoring, in psychotherapy, in advanced French, in whatever else you’ve got.

One wonders, though, if a start might be made by banishing all such talk, from charges of systemic racism to the cry for more programs, and to back it up by enforcing heavy penalties for gun crimes as a way of letting their perpetrators know that stiff jail sentences remain the best program on record for putting a stop to violent and vicious crime.

Thanks to Joseph Epstein.


  1. That last paragraph is incredibly problematic. Sticking your fingers in your ears while shouting, "LA LA LA LA...", is not going to make the violence in this city go away. I believe you are suffering from a severe case of Rosy Retrospection. It's pretty common amongst people who believe, for example, a past era, and the way it existed and operated, however outdated and counter-productive to the progression and positive growth of society, should be brought back to replace the current era, in order to solve some kind of social, economical, or political issue.

    The idea of you purposefully avoiding the subject, which has been suggested by Fox News with no supportive evidence, by the way (since the way they discuss topics is to use vague methods to begin said discussions, such as saying, "Some say...", and then go into their mis/disinformation that they call news), is not going to change a thing. Do you really think people who are unfortunately born into poverty, ultimately ending up in a gang, possibly being involved in a gang-related shooting, or selling drugs on street corners, care whether or not you're talking about any of that to anyone, or even thinking about it? The phrase, "out of sight, out of mind", doesn't exactly apply here except maybe to make you feel better about things. "Ignorance is bliss", is what you're suggesting. It's wrong, and it's gross.

    How about dealing with the systemic racism, like changing the way police officers are both hired and trained, in order to curb the nearly unconditional comradery that exists within police culture, that heavily includes, and focuses on, racism?

    First, there should be a high standard new recruits go by, which includes certain qualifications like having a Masters degree (ex. psychology, criminal justice, or sociology, etc), and adhering to regular psych evaluations so they don't one day, without any sort of warning, or preemptive therapy, use deadly excessive force on someone when the situation does not require any force, or especially deadly force. All that plus recruits maintaining a high standard for their physical conditions. No more donuts! No more cops looking (and acting) like slobs. Toxic police mentality aside, their overall physical appearance, and the way they present themselves, is pathetic. Some police, sure, are physically fit. An old friend of mine joined CPD recently, and he was vastly overweight. I can tell you that if he had to chase someone down, he would probably go hop in his squad car first.

    Second, once recruits are approved for the police academy, there should be a heavy focus on using their firearm as an ultimate last resort. If police in other developed countries, such as the UK, and Scandinavian countries, use their firearm as the very possible last resort, or not at all (not even having one in some places), police here can as well. We, as a society in this country, need to stop trying to maintain a wild west way of life. I promise, when the 2nd amendment was written, I doubt they both expected it to be revised as society changes over time, and didn't expect things to unfold the way they have with regards to criminal justice, gun control, and an overall irresponsible approach to it all.

    Hang on... (reached character limit)

  2. In addition to my second point, the way recruits are influenced during training, resulting in the toxic mentality that fuels racist police culture, should cease. There's no way to change this problem in such a way that it is allowed to continue. It should stop. Period. You nip that problem in the bud, and the way police approach people, especially people of color, will change for the better. Maybe not overnight, but it won't take long.

    Making these practical changes without dismantling the police force, which is an extreme, but "why not at this point?" option, can have a lasting, long term impact on our society.

    Lastly, forget the jail idea. Do you realize some people, like first time offenders, go into the prison or jail system, and come out worse, having learned how to break the law better while serving their time. It's counter-productive. (also side note: for-profit prisions should be outlawed)

    I've said a lot already, and can say more. Just please think about these points for now.