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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Organized crime murders in Chicago, 1894-1930

Ever wonder how many murders were tied to organized crime in Chicago? Perhaps an odd thing to think about for some, but not for someone researching a book regarding the economics of crime and Capone's Chicago.

Northwestern University School of Law digitized Chicago homicide data from 1870-1930 and made it available to the public. I pulled those homicides related to organized crime and sorted by method. There is no record of an organized crime related homicide in Chicago until 1894: Gus Colliander, shot outside a polling place by an unknown man November 6, 1894. According to articles from the Chicago Tribune archives, Colliander was shot during a gang raid of a polling place at No. 117 Oak Street.
Source: Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1894 (online archives)
Organized crime homicides in Chicago thus began long before Al Capone. The number of organized crime related homicides drastically increased during the Capone era (at his peak between 1925 and 1930.) The most common methods of organized crime killing was the infamous "hit," or murder for hire, followed by drive by shootings. The table below shows these two methods over time, with the Capone era marked off by black lines. The peak year for mob hits during this time was 1930 with 28 incidences; the total number of homicides recorded that year in Chicago was 763 (of which 56 were mob related.)

Source: "Homocide in Chicago" and author's calculations

One soul among the 28 hits in 1930 was Walter Wakefield. Wakefield, a known Capone gang member, was shot in his home (2900 South Wells Street) by Frank 'Dale' Delbano on April 20, 1930. Two other men (Frank Debra and Joseph Special) were also shot and killed. Delbano was arrested the following day, but no charges were ever filed.

What would you like to know about the Capone era in Chicago?


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