United States crime back
in the 20th century created a huge impact on today’s society. Crime
back then was very common. Al Capone was one of the many well-known criminals.
Gangs and organized crime was also common. Prohibition was one of the major
beginnings for criminals so they could sell illegal alcohol to obtain money and
earn wealth. Prohibition spread throughout America and expanded America’s crime
rates. Since crime back then, it has become a part of our American culture to
watch movies, read books, and television shows about organized crime. It has
become a big part of American entertainment as much as we despise criminals.
In the history of the United States of America the time
period of the 1920’s has come to be known as the roaring 20’s. This time was
filled with many new innovations in sports, music, fashion, as well as
technology and development of the automobile. Although this period was filled
with many good things, it was also home to prohibition in the United States.
This outlawing of alcoholic beverages in the United States created an
opportunity for a mafia to become prominent in the country, creating a system
of organized crime. The Mafia that began to come to power was one of the major
areas of organized crime with a system of ranking as well as mob bosses,
criminals began to rise with organized crime taking the hearts of America,
overall effecting society.
The American Prohibition started in 1919 an ended in
1933. This banned the selling, production, and transporting of alcohol in the
US. This caused organized crimes to illegally make, sell and ship alcohol to
other gangs and citizens. Making it an easy way to make money from people and
provide for their families. This was one of the first major events that lead to
an increase in criminals and crime rates during this time period. The
Prohibition did not achieve its goal, instead it added to the problems it was
supposed to solve.
The 18th amendment prohibited the production and selling
of alcohol. From this, Speakeasies were
built in hidden parts of an establishment, either underground or hidden inside
the stores, throughout the United States. They were used to illegally sell
alcohol during Prohibition. Some speakeasies were similar to today’s clubs,
with jazz musicians and performances. To enter a speakeasy, one would have to
say a password to prove that they were not a secret agent. The name
“speakeasy” came from a bartender’s term “speak easy” when
at a bar, meaning not to act nervous or draw attention when buying an alcoholic
beverage. Slang words, such as tarantula juice, monkey rum, and moonshine, were
used to fool law officials from finding out about speakeasies. People involved
with speakeasies mainly revolved around gangs, who supplied liquor; mainly Al
Capone and his gang. Speakeasies were most common in New York City.
The Great Depression was a huge economic crash for
America. This caused many people to become unemployed and no financial support.
Many people and families were trying to find ways to earn some kind of income,
so many people resulted to robbery, murders, etc. to be able to provide for
their families. Crime rates skyrocketed due to this major event that hit
America and leaving a huge impact on society.
From the 1930s into the twenty-first century, the federal
government played a huge role in criminal justice. The states shouldered most
criminal justice responsibility for the major crimes of murder, armed robbery,
rape, theft, larceny, and arson. As crime rates grew in the twentieth century,
the federal government increased funding for local and state law enforcement,
set national crime policy, and kept statistics. Crime concerns grew as society
changed and new technologies were introduced. Though, the police force seemed
as though they were always behind while criminals were taking control.
New technology made many changes to the way the police
did their work in the 20th century. Fingerprinting and DNA testing were
discovered and were new ways of catching criminals. It allowed police to move
faster and communicate with each other more quickly. Police began to use
bicycles, radios, and cars in the early 1900s. (It was not until the 1930s that
cars and motorbikes were used regularly). Closed circuit TV changed police
supervision of difficult areas and speeding and other traffic offences.
Law enforcement was unprepared during the 1900s and had
little knowledge with catching experienced criminals. Police agencies had a
lack of modern tools and training. Fingerprinting DNA technique was used often
once discovered to catch the guilty. Streets
crowded with violence and corrupt. Many people felt hopeless and despair as
criminals were taking over. Since then,
the US has come up with many different ways to catch criminals by the use and
advancement of new technology; such as online tracking, surveillance cameras, etc.
In early 20th century America, city life was crowded and
dangerous. Immigrants settled in densely populated neighborhoods, and found few
social services available. Drugs such as cocaine and opium were easy to obtain,
alcohol was cheap and plentiful, and gambling and prostitution were common. In
this environment, young working class men from the same neighborhood often got
together in gangs. This was life back then for many in the city, involving much
In the early 1900s, the homicide rates in the US were ten
times the homicide rate in London during the same era. There were high rates of
murder and manslaughter in America’s cities, though rural areas had higher
homicide rates than urban areas during this period. Homicides in the city
happened for many reasons, including domestic violence, gang violence and
random fights caused by alcohol. Still, life in the city was less dangerous
than life in the country.
Large American cities such as New York were known to have
had a street-gang problem, but the earlier gangs were not usually involved in
serious crime. The gang problem became a problem and more frequent in the early
to mid-1900s, the streets of New York were dominated by four large gangs
including, the Gophers, the Hudson Dusters, the Monk Eastman Gang and the Five
Pointers. Major Chicago gangs included, “Ragan’s Colts”, the “Dukies” and the “Shielders”.
Gangs were involved in strong-arm robbery, gang warfare and political
The United States had some of the most ruthless criminals
during the 20th century. One
of them being Joseph Adonis. In 1927 he formed the seven group to control
alcohol trade. He was also involved in controlling gambling in New Jersey and
New York. He was convicted of violating gambling laws
and sentenced to two to three years in prison. He was part of organized crime.
Adonis was arrested for many charges being, rape, murder, being in the mafia,
and controlling organized crime, etc. Adonis is one of the major American
criminals that we know of today and made a huge impact.
Al Capone was known as one of the
most feared gangsters in American history. Officers and many Police forces
attempted to track him down for years. He committed numerous crimes such as
huge robberies, murders, smuggling of illegal substances, etc. At last they
caught Al Capone and sentenced him to eleven years in prison for illegal
revenue from gambling. Though, this was a ruthless determined criminal in which
all of society feared him.
Manson was leader of the Manson Family, Manson believed in an apocalyptic race
war, which he termed “Helter Skelter.” He orchestrated a series of gruesome
murders on consecutive nights in an effort to help precipitate the race war. In
1969, Manson and his followers were convicted in the slaying of actress Sharon
Tate and several others. Manson’s sentence was later sentenced to life in
prison. Manson was denied parole for the 12th time in April 2012.
Ted Bundy is also one of the
well-known criminals we are familiar with till this day. Most of his crimes
included kidnapping, rape, and murder. He confessed on killing thirty and
possibly more of his victims. He was arrested multiple times and most times consisted
of him escaping. Ted Bundy was soon sentenced to a death penalty due to his
morbid crimes. Ted Bundy made the world a horrible place for many. He made a
huge impact on today’s society and he redefined the way people view serial
Bonnie and Clyde had criminal records before they met each other. At age 22
Bonnie served time for a bank robbery. While Clyde was in prison he was abused,
and this abuse led to him becoming a ruthless outlaw. After creating the Barrow
Gang, Bonnie and Clyde began life together as criminals with a huge fan base. They
were able to touch the place in the public’s imagination that loved criminals.
When they would rob a bank the people inside would adore and treat them like stars
and stand by while the gang took the money. When it was necessary to take
hostages so they could get away the due treated them as family, and sometimes
gave them money before parting after making their escape. These people are
known as one of the most iconic criminal duos in history, and still have a
legacy today shaping the way some may view criminals.
Sam Sheppard was a successful doctor who was accused of
the 1954 murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn. His story of being knocked
unconscious by a murderer with little detail to describe the murderer brought
doubts over his innocence, and media and news proclaimed his guilt. He was
found guilty in 1954 and sentenced to life in prison. After more than a decade
in jail, the US Supreme Court ruled that Sheppard was denied due process due to
the bias from both the media and the judge ruling on the case. He was re tried
in 1966 and acquitted. Sheppard’s case launched the career of famed defense
attorney F. Lee Bailey and is believed to have inspired the television show and
movie “The Fugitive” today.
Soon in the 1930s, the Lindbergh Law
was placed. Many kidnappings were occurring with notes attached asking for
payment in exchange for the victim. Citizens began to demand for a new anti-kidnapping
law. The law stated that if the victim is transported from state to state, the
offender would be imprisoned for a long period of time. Also, if the victim was
harmed physically, the death penalty was brought to the offender. The law also
allowed the federal law enforcements to help in a case.
federal government had limited involvement in criminal justice, no federal
prisons existed before the 1890s and U.S. marshals handled federal policing
responsibilities. Those convicted of federal crimes were sent to state or local
jails. Three federal prisons were approved by Congress. As a result, Leavenworth
in Kansas opened in 1895, then facilities in Atlanta and Western Washington. The
policing powers of the federal government began growing as well. In 1908 the
U.S. Department of Justice created the Bureau of Investigation to lead in the
investigation of federal crimes.
in the late 1900s crime rates declined, though people still felt vulnerable.
Crime was publicized by the media and seemed random in its victims. Mass or
large-scale shootings at schools and businesses as well as terrorist answers to
try and eliminate crime or at least to control it. Threats made society feel
uneasy. Increased security in public buildings and at airports kept the threat
of crime in people’s minds. Citizens and society today have continued to search
for the answers to try and eliminate crime or try to control it.
were scarcely any jobs so many people turned to gangs; which made people in
America lose some sense of security and safety. The US reacted in a way with
fear and hostility as more criminals started to rise. As more criminals were
created in the world, our law system began to get stricter with their laws and
regulations. There are several court cases that changed the perception of
criminals and America today.