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Although several notorious gangsters are being prosecuted, pressure on organized crime has eased considerably in the past few years because of disarray among federal law enforcement agencies, notably the FBI, IRS and Drug Enforcement Administration. They are still suffering from the backlash against the civil rights violations committed by some overzealous agents in the 1960s and early 1970s. In addition, the FBI has not yet settled down from the inevitable turmoil that followed the death of Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972; its parent, the Justice Department, has been disoriented by a revolving door at the top: five chiefs since 1972.
During those years, an attempt at a broad-scale attack on organized crime by the federal strike forces broke down because of internal rivalries. Says William Aronwald, former leader of the strike force in New York: "Cooperation among agencies is the exception rather than the rule." But without joint efforts by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government, Aronwald and other investigators fear, organized crime can never be attacked successfully. He adds: "You've got to be ballsy. You've got to be aggressive. You can't wait until they come to you." A successful assault will probably require:
> Concentrating more money and manpower on fighting the Mob. According to a study by G. Robert Blakey, director of the Cornell Institute on Organized Crime, all levels of government employ only 400 lawyers who specialize in organized crime. Says he: "The Mafia now has more lawyers than we have."
> Permitting easier bugging and wiretapping of known members of organized crime. The courts now require investigators to demonstrate that a specific crime has probably been committed. If the eavesdropping does not turn up enough evidence and the suspects are not promptly indicted, they must be informed about the bugs or taps.
> Enacting stronger legislation. The Carter Administration last week moved in this direction by proposing laws that would prohibit the laundering of Mob money, tighten loan-sharking statutes and provide stiff prison sentences for operating racketeering syndicates. The proposals, however, do not solve the central problem: the very difficulty of proving charges of money-washing, loan-sharking and running illegal rackets.
> Giving convicted racketeers longer prison sentences. The GAO study found that over a four-year period, 52% of the sentences imposed on organized criminals by federal courts involved fines but no imprisonment and only 20% were for jail terms of two years or more. One reason: many judges feel that the mobsters' crimes, except the killings of each other, are nonviolent and thus less serious than, say, mugging. When jailed, mobsters are generally model prisoners and, with their high-priced legal help, win paroles more easily than the average convict.
Above all, there must be an end to Americans' tolerance for any kind of organized crime. Romantic notions about the dons and winking acceptance of their goods and services