Organized crime remains one of the central topics of media and political discussions, especially in Florida, which has a long history and profound impacts on the life of the local communities. Organized crime bears numerous features of individual crime. However, what makes organized crime distinct from individual illicit activities is the word “organized” (Mallory, 2011). Unlike individual criminal actions, organized crime always involves a group of people, who work cooperatively to accomplish their illegal objectives (Mallory, 2011). Organized crime incorporates the most successful features of business organizations, including division of labor, organizational structure and hierarchy, authority and power delegation, as well as specialization and departmentalization (Mallory, 2011). Organized crime is much more complex than individual criminal activity, and its goals are usually much more serious than those, which individual criminals seek to achieve. For many criminals, becoming a member of an organized crime group is a matter of prestige and recognition (Mallory, 2011).
The history of organized crime in Florida, including Jacksonville, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is the 1920s and the coming of Al Capone to live in his house on Palm Island that started the bloody history of organized crime in Florida (Franceschina & Burstein, 2010). Later in the 1940s and 1950s, Florida became the Southern Las Vegas, with dozens of casinos and clubs flourishing across its communities despite the official prohibition of alcohol and gambling (Franceschina & Burstein, 2010). Actually, it is through gambling that violence between and within Florida’s organized gangs was temporarily suppressed: illegal gambling activities brought so much cash that violence simply lost its relevance and was no longer needed (Franceschina & Burstein, 2010). In the mid-1950s, local gangsters controlled most horse and dog tracks while moving their gambling interests abroad, for instance, to Cuba (Franceschina & Burstein, 2010). With time, Florida, including Jacksonville County, became one of the most favorable climates for the rapid expansion of organized crime activities, “This is open territory for anyone with the mob for whatever they want to do. […] It’s a beautiful part of the country and this is where they like to come down” (Franceschina & Burstein, 2010).
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At least twelve national criminal gangs are claimed to have presence in Florida (Rubio, 2008). Among the most well-known security threat groups in Florida, the following originate from and operate in Jacksonville: 2-1, Ebony Kings, Gang of 14, Jacksonville City Boys, Niggers from Lackawanna, Night Hawks, etc. (Rubio, 2008). Despite a significant drop in violence, Jacksonville still tops other counties with more than 500,000 residents in terms of its murder rates (Anonymous, 2012). Florida’s crime clock indicates that a violent crime takes place once in five minutes (Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2012). Therefore, these crime activities have profound impacts on the lives of Jacksonville community residents.
The societal costs of organized crime in Jacksonville, Florida, are extensive. Basically, organized criminal groups turn the fear of crime and violence into an essential element of residents’ daily routines (Rubio, 2008). Organized crime jeopardizes the individual and collective safety of Jacksonville residents, increasing the risks to be caught in the gang cross-fire (Rubio, 2008). The presence of gangs in Jacksonville increases the likelihood of violence, conflicts, and victimization in elementary and secondary schools (Rubio, 2008). A typical criminal career costs the Jacksonville community between $1,3 and $1,5 million in external costs (Rubio, 2008). Thus, the main question is what the community can do to deal with organized crime.
Contemporary lawmakers and law enforcement professionals have a diverse set of instruments to prevent and mitigate the consequences of organized crime. However, the best they can do is to identify the factors leading to organized crime and pushing individuals to become members of organized crime communities and groups (Rubio, 2008). At the same time, the community must offer relevant alternatives to gang membership, in the form of meaningful employment opportunities and social activities to distract community residents from their criminal intentions. Given the seriousness of the organized crime issue, the community should initiate the implementation of a multifaceted prevention program that will teach young residents about the negative consequences of gang membership, engage them in meaningful social activities, and provide constant support in order to improve their relations with families and the rest of the neighborhood.