The Nation: THE MAFIA Big, Bad and Booming

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substantial tax cut; the bookie is merely a private entrepreneur trying to survive in competition with state-run betting operations; the loan shark's 20%-a-week bite seems almost reasonable to a businessman who must raise cash fast but cannot qualify for a loan at a bank. Abetting this ethical blind spot are the romanticized accounts of the Mafia in novels and movies. Says Stephen Schiller, executive director of the Chicago crime commission: "The public doesn't realize how bad these people are. The Mob makes for good talk. We have made these bums folk heroes." Adds Ralph Salerno, formerly the New York City police department's leading Mafia expert: "America has come over to them. We've accepted the Godfather syndrome." In addition, dramatic changes in American moral attitudes —the new sexual permissiveness, relaxed concern over marijuana and cocaine, and the drive to legalize gambling —create an ever-increasing appetite for organized crime's services. On almost any given day, newspaper headlines attest graphically to the size and variety of that appetite. Last week, for example, two organized crime figures and seven associates were indicted in Detroit on charges of luring rich businessmen to sex and gambling parties and then extorting large sums of money from them —in one case, more than $200,000. In Manhattan that same night, police raided a luxurious casino near Rockefeller Center, equipped with crystal chandeliers, thick red carpets and six blackjack tables that were being used by more than 80 well-heeled customers.

Organized criminals react like any big businessmen: when they see customer potential they go after it. The potential is reflected to some extent in the statistics for legal gambling. In the last decade, gross wagering revenues have tripled in Nevada's casinos, to nearly $1.2 billion.

Americans in 44 states last year legally gambled $18.5 billion—in lotteries and on horse and dog races; ten years earlier, when only 32 states allowed gambling, the total was about $6 billion.

While law enforcement officials know the identity of the major mobsters and the nature of their crimes, turning up enough hard evidence to put them in prison is often impossible. The Mafia's reputation for vengeance frightens many victims, witnesses and potential informers into not cooperating with authorities. To make matters even easier for the Mob, the growing public concern over street violence has prompted city and state police to concentrate less of their limited resources on organized crime. Federal strike forces, made up of investigators from several Government law enforcement agencies, were established as front-line squads in the fight against big-time criminals in 18 cities. But after ten years of efforts and the expenditure of $800 million, a General Accounting Office study concluded in March that "organized crime is still flourishing." Most of the strike forces are now being disbanded. Because of abuses, the Government has also lost two of its best weapons: virtually unrestrained bugging and wiretapping, which once provided 80% of the information about Mob activities, and easy access to hoodlums' tax returns.

For all of its impact on American life, the Mafia is a remarkably small organization. As reckoned by the FBI, the Mafia numbers about 5,000 "made men," or members.

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