The First True Crime Story: Prohibition and the Start of Organized Crime

It’s been a century since the start of Prohibition in America, so it seems like a good time to look back and see what exactly happened – and what exactly went wrong. The decision to outlaw the sale of alcohol led to the rise of organized crime and introduced us to legendary crime bosses like Al Capone and ‘Lucky’ Luciano. This ‘noble experiment’ was supposed to turn the country into an abstinent nation and begin a moral and social revolution. The naïve promise was to reduce crime and corruption (how ironic), to boost the economy (money certainly moved around), and to improve the nation’s health (that didn’t last).


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner, John A. Leach (Right), Watches Agents Pour Liquor Into A Sewer After A Raid, C1921. Photo By Granger/Shutterstock

At 12:01 am on January 17, 1920, the United States by law became alcoholically dry, and just minutes later, six masked raiders armed with guns stole $100,000-worth of whiskey from a cargo train in Chicago. This was the first booze-related crime – the first of many that would soon become a bloody business, literally.

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