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Violence brokers and super-spreaders: how organised crime transformed the structure of Chicago violence during Prohibition

NCJ Number
Global Crime Volume: 23 Issue: 1 Dated: 2022 Pages: 23-43
Date Published
21 pages

This paper discusses the authors’ research on organized crime networking in Chicago during the Prohibition era, from 1920 to1933; the authors measure the role of violence brokers and their influence on linking murders, kidnappings, bombings, and other violent acts.


The rise of organized crime changed Chicago violence structurally by creating networks of rivalries and conflicts wherein violence ricocheted. This study examines the organized crime violence network during Prohibition by analyzing ‘violence brokers’ – individuals who committed multiple violent acts that linked separate violent events into a connected violence network. The authors analyze the two-mode violence network from the Capone Database, a relational database on early 1900s Chicago organized crime. Across 276 violent incidents attributed to organized crime were 334 suspected perpetrators of violence. The authors find that 20 percent of suspects were violence brokers, and nine brokers were violence super-spreaders linking the majority of suspects. The authors also find that violence brokers were in the thick of violence not just as suspects, but also as victims; violence brokers in this network experienced more victimization than non-brokers. Unknowingly or knowingly, these violence brokers wove together a network, attack-by-attack, that transformed violence in Chicago. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022