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Title: Gangster  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: P. G. Wodehouse minor characters, Eddie Nash, Kenny Gallo, The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults, Al Capone
Collection: Organized Crime Members by Role
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A gangster is a mob and the suffix -ster.[1] Gangs provide a level of organization and resources that support much larger and more complex criminal transactions than an individual criminal could achieve. Gangsters have been active for many years in countries around the world.

Some gangsters, such as Al Capone, have become infamous. Gangsters are the subject of many movies, particularly from the period between 1930 and 1990.

Contemporary criminals often refer to themselves as "gangsta" in reference to non-rhotic Black American pronunciation.


  • Gangs 1
  • Regional variants 2
    • Europe 2.1
    • Asia 2.2
    • United States and Canada 2.3
    • Latin America 2.4
  • Notorious individuals 3
    • Al Capone 3.1
    • Frank Costello 3.2
    • Carlo Gambino 3.3
    • The Kray twins 3.4
    • Lucky Luciano 3.5
    • Johnny Torrio 3.6
  • In popular culture 4
    • United States 4.1
    • Latin America 4.2
    • East Asia 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7
    • In the United States 7.1
    • In popular culture 7.2


Yakuza, or Japanese mafia are not allowed to show their tattoos in public except during the Sanja Matsuri festival.

In modern usage, the term "[2] Much has been written on the subject of gangs, although there is no clear consensus about what constitutes a gang or what situations lead to gang formation and evolution. There is agreement that the members of a gang have a sense of common identity and belonging, and this is typically reinforced through shared activities and through visual identifications such as special clothing, tattoos or rings.[3] Some preconceptions may be false. For example, the common view that illegal drug distribution in the United States is largely controlled by gangs has been questioned.[4]

A gang may be a relatively small group of people who cooperate in criminal acts, as with the Chicago Outfit created by Al Capone outlasted its founder's imprisonment and death, and survived into the 21st century. Large and well structured gangs such as the Mafia, Drug cartels, Triads or even outlaw motorcycle gangs can undertake complex transactions that would be far beyond the capability of one individual, and can provide services such as dispute arbitration and contract enforcement that parallel those of a legitimate government.[5]

The term "[6]

Although gangs and gangsters have existed in many countries and at many times in the past, they have played more prominent roles during times of weakened social order or when governments have attempted to suppress access to goods or services for which there is a high demand.

Regional variants


Sketch of the 1901 maxi trial of suspected mafiosi in Palermo. From the newspaper L'Ora, May 1901

The feudalism in 1812 and its later annexation by mainland Italy in 1860. Under feudalism, the nobility owned most of the land and enforced law and order through their private armies. After 1812, the feudal barons steadily sold off or rented their lands to private citizens. Primogeniture was abolished, land could no longer be seized to settle debts, and one fifth of the land was to become private property of the peasants.[7]

Organized crime has existed in Russia since the days of Imperial Russia in the form of banditry and thievery. In the Soviet period Vory v Zakone emerged, a class of criminals that had to abide by certain rules in the prison system. One such rule was that cooperation with the authorities of any kind was forbidden. During World War II some prisoners made a deal with the government to join the armed forces in return for a reduced sentence, but upon their return to prison they were attacked and killed by inmates who remained loyal to the rules of the thieves.[8] In 1988 the Soviet Union legalized private enterprise but did not provide regulations to ensure the security of market economy. Crude markets emerged, the most notorious being the Rizhsky market where prostitution rings were run next to the Rizhsky Railway Station in Moscow.[9]

As the Soviet Union headed for collapse many former government workers turned to crime, while others moved overseas. Former KGB agents and veterans of the Afghan and First and Second Chechen Wars, now unemployed but with experience that could prove useful in crime, joined the increasing crime wave.[9] At first, the Vory v Zakone played a key role in arbitrating the gang wars that erupted in the 1990s.[10] By the mid-1990s it was believed that "Don" Semion Mogilevich had become the "boss of all bosses" of most Russian Mafia syndicates in the world, described by the British government as "one of the most dangerous men in the world".[11] More recently, criminals with stronger ties to big business and the government have displaced the Vory from some of their traditional niches, although the Vory are still strong in gambling and the retail trade.[10]

The Serbian Mafia, Bosnian Mafia, Bulgarian Mafia and so on.


Du Yuesheng (1888-1951), a Chinese gangster and important Kuomintang supporter who spent much of his life in Shanghai

In China, Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the '60s and the beginning of the '80s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li'l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned.[46] The film received four Academy Award nominations in 2004.[47]

East Asia

The first yakuza (gangster) film made in Japan was Bakuto (Gambler, 1964). The genre soon became popular, and by the 1970s the Japanese film industry was turning out a hundred mostly low-budget yakuza films each year. The films are descendants of the samurai epics, and are closer to Westerns than to Hollywood gangster movies. The hero is typically torn between compassion for the oppressed and his sense of duty to the gang. The plots are generally highly stylized, starting with the protagonist being released from prison and ending in a gory sword fight in which he dies an honorable death.[48]

Although some Hong Kong gangster movies are simply vehicles for violent action, the mainstream movies in the genre deal with Triad societies portrayed as quasi-benign organizations.[49] The movie gangster applies the Taoist principles of balance and honor to his conduct. The plots are often similar to those of Hollywood gangster movies, often ending with the fall of the subject of the movie at the hands of another gangster, but such a fall is far less important than a fall from honor.[49] The first movie made by the acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai was a gangster movie, As Tears Go By. In it the protagonist finds himself torn between his desire for a woman and his loyalty to a fellow gangster.[50] Infernal Affairs (2002) is a thriller about a police officer who infiltrates a triad and a triad member who infiltrates the police department. The film was remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed.[51]

Gangster films make up one of the most profitable segments of the South Korean film industry. Films made in the 1960s were often influenced by Japanese yakuza films, dealing with internal conflict between members of a gang or external conflict with other gangs. The gangsters' code of conduct and loyalty are important elements. Starting in the 1970s, strict censorship caused decline in the number and quality of gangster movies, and none were made in the 1980s.[52] In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a surge of imports of action movies from Hong Kong. The first of the new wave of important home grown gangster movies was Im Kwon-taek's General's Son (1990). Although this movie followed the earlier tradition, it was followed by a series of sophisticated gangster noirs set in contemporary urban locations, such as A Bittersweet Life (2005).[53]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (online edition)
  2. ^ Taylor 2009.
  3. ^ Kontos, Brotherton & Barrios 2003, pp. xiff.
  4. ^ Kontos, Brotherton & Barrios 2003, pp. 42.
  5. ^ Abadinsky 2009, p. 1.
  6. ^ Lyman & Potter 2010, pp. 213ff.
  7. ^ Sardell 2009.
  8. ^ Shalamov 1998.
  9. ^ a b The Rise and rise....
  10. ^ a b Schwirtz 2008.
  11. ^ Glenny 2008, p. 75.
  12. ^ Stojarová 2007.
  13. ^ UltraGangsteret Shqiptar.
  14. ^ Abadinsky 2009, pp. 154-155.
  15. ^ Ter Haar 2000, pp. 18.
  16. ^ Ter Haar 2000, pp. 19.
  17. ^ Mallory 2007, p. 136ff.
  18. ^ Corkill 2011.
  19. ^ Kaplan & Dubro 2003, pp. 18-21.
  20. ^ English 2006, p. 13.
  21. ^ Iorizzo 2003, p. 14.
  22. ^ Fried 1980, p. 27.
  23. ^ Tongs and Street Gangs.
  24. ^ Iorizzo 2003, pp. 15ff.
  25. ^ Field Listing....
  26. ^ Colombia - Transnational....
  27. ^ Gugliotta & Leen 2011, p. 1ff.
  28. ^ Cook 2007, p. 7.
  29. ^ Jacobson 2005, p. 40ff.
  30. ^ High U.S. cocaine cost.
  31. ^ Iorizzo 2003, pp. 23ff.
  32. ^ Block 2004, pp. 85ff.
  33. ^ Borrell & Cashinella 1975, pp. 52ff.
  34. ^ Newark 2010, pp. xi et seq.
  35. ^ Howard Abadinsky, Organized Crime, Cengage Learning, 2009, p.115
  36. ^ John Cobler, Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone, Da Capo Press, 2003, p.26
  37. ^ Jay Robert Nash, The Great Pictorial History of World Crime, Volume 1, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, p.503
  38. ^ Robert G. Folsom, The Money Trail, Potomac Books, 2010, p.231
  39. ^ Virgil W. Peterson, The mob: 200 years of organized crime in New York, Green Hill Publishers, 1983, p.156
  40. ^ Beeton 2005, p. 62.
  41. ^ Talbot 1975, p. 148-149.
  42. ^ McCarty 2004, p. 5.
  43. ^ Hark 2007, p. 12.
  44. ^ Hark 2007, p. 13.
  45. ^ Soy un Delincuente.
  46. ^ Ebert 2003.
  47. ^ City of God.
  48. ^ Kaplan & Dubro 2003, pp. 141-142.
  49. ^ a b Nochimson 2007, p. 70.
  50. ^ Nochimson 2011, p. 306.
  51. ^ Reiber 2011, p. 31.
  52. ^ Choi 2010, p. 60.
  53. ^ Choi 2010, p. 61.

External links

In the United States

In popular culture

Latin American gangster movies are known for their gritty realism. Soy un delincuente (English: I Am a Criminal) is a 1976 Venezuelan film by director Clemente de la Cerda. The film tells the story of Ramón Antonio Brizuela, a real-life individual, who since childhood has to deal with rampant violence and the drugs, sex and petty thievery of a Caracas slum. Starting with delinquency, Ramón moves on to serious gang activity and robberies. He grows into a tough, self-confident young man who is hardened to violence. His views change when his fiancée's brother is killed in a robbery. The film was a blockbuster hit in Venezuela.[45]

Latin America

The stereotypical image and myth of the American gangster is closely associated with Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s.[42] 1931 and 1932 saw the genre produce three classics: Warner Bros.' Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, which made screen icons out of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, and Howard Hughs' Scarface starring Paul Muni, which offered a dark psychological analysis of a fictionalized Al Capone.[43] These films chronicle the quick rise, and equally quick downfall, of three young, violent criminals, and represent the genre in its purest form before moral pressure would force it to change and evolve. Though the gangster in each film would face a violent downfall which was designed to remind the viewers of the consequences of crime, audiences were often able to identify with the charismatic anti-hero. Those suffering from the Depression were able to relate to the gangster character who worked hard to earn his place and success in the world, only to have it all taken away from him.[44] More recently, gangsters have been depicted in American popular culture in films such as The Godfather, War, Scarface ,Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem, New Jack City and Goodfellas, and in television shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire & Boardwalk Empire.

Publicity still of Romanian-born Edward G. Robinson, who starred in several American gangster movies

[41] The classic

United States

Gangs have long been the subject of movies. In fact, the first feature-length movie ever produced was The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), an Australian production that traced the life of the outlaw Ned Kelly (1855–1880).[40] The United States has profoundly influenced the genre, but other cultures have contributed distinctive and often excellent gangster movies.

In popular culture

Born in southern Italy in 1882, Torrio immigrated to the United States with his mother after his father's death, which happened when he was three years old. Known as "The Fox" for his cunning, he helped the formation of the [39]

Mugshot of Johnny Torrio in 1936

Johnny Torrio

[34] Lucky Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania), a

Lucky Luciano

Mugshot of Charles Luciano, Italian-American mobster, in 1936

The Diana Dors, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and politicians. The Krays were highly feared within their social environment. In the 1960s they became celebrities in their own right, being photographed by David Bailey and interviewed on television. They were arrested in 1968 and both sentenced to life imprisonment.[33]

The Kray twins

Carlo Gambino was an influential gangster in America. From 1961 until he died in 1976, he was chairman of the American mafia. Gambino was born in Palermo, Sicily, but moved to the United States at the age of 21. Through his Castellano relatives, he joined the Masseria Family. While Lucky Luciano was the underboss in the Masseria Family, Gambino worked for him. After Luciano had Masseria killed, Luciano became the boss, and Gambino was sent to the Scalise Family. Later Scalise was stripped of his rank, and Vicenzu Mangano became boss until 1951, when Mangano disappeared. His body was never found.[32]

Carlo Gambino

. He also had a lot of political power which enabled him to continue his business. He took charge when Luciano was arrested and expanded the gang's operations. He decided to step away from the gangster life and died peacefully in 1973. gambling and bootlegging in Charlie Luciano was another influential gangster. He was born in southern Italy but moved to America when he was four years old. He later changed his name from Francesco Castiglia to Frank Costello when he joined a gang at age 13. His name change led some people to mistakenly believe he was Irish. He worked with Frank Costello
American gangster Frank Costello, testifying before the Kefauver Committee, during an investigation of organized crime.

Frank Costello

Al Capone was one of the most influential gangsters during the prohibition period. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1899 to immigrant parents, Capone was recruited by members of the Five Points Gang in the early 1920s. Capone’s childhood friend, Lucky Luciano, was also originally a member of the Five Points Gang. Capone would rise to control a major portion of illicit activity such as gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging in Chicago during the early twentieth century.[31]

Mug shot of Al Capone. Although never convicted of racketeering, Capone was convicted of income tax evasion by the federal government.

Al Capone

Notorious individuals

Cocaine traffickers from Colombia, and recently Mexico, have also established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the Caribbean, the Bahama Island chain, and South Florida. They often hire traffickers from Mexico or the Dominican Republic to transport the drug. The traffickers use a variety of smuggling techniques to transfer their drug to U.S. markets. These include airdrops of 500–700 kg in the Bahama Islands or off the coast of Puerto Rico, mid-ocean boat-to-boat transfers of 500–2,000 kg, and the commercial shipment of tonnes of cocaine through the port of Miami. Another route of cocaine traffic goes through Chile, this route is primarily used for cocaine produced in Bolivia since the nearest seaports lie in northern Chile. The arid Bolivia-Chile border is easily crossed by 4x4 vehicles that then head to the seaports of Iquique and Antofagasta.

Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia's Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market in the United States.[28] Sixty five percent of cocaine enters the United States through Mexico, and the vast majority of the rest enters through Florida. Cocaine shipments from South America transported through Mexico or Central America are generally moved over land or by air to staging sites in northern Mexico. The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for smuggling across the U.S.–Mexico border.[29] Arrests of key gang leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as gangs fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.[30]

Most cocaine is grown and processed in Medellín, Colombia. The gang operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Central America, the United States, as well as Canada and Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was founded and run by Ochoa Vázquez brothers with Pablo Escobar. By 1993, the Colombian government, helped by the US, had successfully dismantled the cartel by imprisoning or hunting and gunning down its members.[27]

Members of Colonel Martinez's Search Bloc celebrate over Pablo Escobar's body on December 2, 1993

Latin America

The terms "gangster" and "mobster" are mostly used in the United States to refer to members of criminal organizations associated with Prohibition or with an American offshoot of the Italian Mafia (such as the Chicago Outfit, the Philadelphia Mafia, or the Five Families). In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption. Many gangs sold alcohol illegally for tremendous profit, and used acute violence to stake turf and protect their interest. Often, police officers and politicians were paid off or extorted to ensure continued operation.[24]

In the later 1800s many Chinese emigrated to the United States, escaping from insecurity and economic hardship at home, at first working on the west coast and later moving east. The new immigrants formed Chinese Benevolent Associations. In some cases these evolved into Triads who migrated to the United States often joined these tongs. With a new wave of migration in the 1960s, street gangs began to flourish in major cities. The tongs recruited these gangs to protect their extortion, gambling and narcotics operations.[23]

As American society and culture developed, new immigrants were relocating to the United States. The first major gangs in 19th century New York City were the Irish gangs such as the Whyos and the Dead Rabbits.[20] These were followed by the Italian Five Points Gang and later a Jewish gang known as the Eastman Gang.[21][22] There were also "nativist" anti-immigration gangs such as the Bowery Boys. The American Mafia arose from offshoots of the Mafia that emerged in the United States during the late nineteenth century, following waves of emigration from Sicily. There were similar offshoots in Canada among Italian Canadians.

United States and Canada

[19], those who were involved in or participated in gambling.bakuto, those who primarily peddled illicit, stolen or shoddy goods; and tekiya: Edo Period Most modern yakuza derive from two classifications which emerged in the mid-[18]


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