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Racket Busters (1984)
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Racket Busters (1984)

Crime Inc. - Episode 3/7

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Owing its rise to power to the Prohibition Era and the public’s desire for illicit substances, organized crime has since branched out into many other ventures, both legal and illegal. In this episode, the subject is the law enforcement network, and its efforts to control the racketeering activities of the Mafia.

Archival news clips, photographs, and personal accounts illustrate some of the highlights of the fight by the F.B.I. and its allies against the corruption of organized crime. This episode deals intially with J Edgar Hoover, the development of the FBI and its fight against organised crime. In the 1930s gang warfare exploded in New York as did gun related crime in general, and the subsequent public outrage led to a new breed of police.

The likes of Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and Dillinger were high profile victories for the law enforcement agencies. The documentary covers these with fascinating contemporary footage and explains the propoganda used by the FBI to ease public fear and reinforce their own prestige. Background information to the rise of the mafia in America from the surge of immigrants from Europe in the 1880s and 90s is given first person perspective from an interview with Charles Suraga, a narcotics agent who spent his childhood in one of the immigrant districts of New York.

Victor Herwitz, a former rackets lawyer, explains how the organised street level crime of these immigrant districts led to such profits that the police were bought and even the mayor , Jimmy Walker, was not untouchable from the rife corruption of 1920s New York. The documentary continues with the work of the FBI and the burea of Narcotics in their battle with organised crime. The focus is on the head of the Narcotics Bureau, Anslinger – a forward thinking investigator.

Part of this story leads to a short biography of Genovese, Luciano’s successor as America’s mob boss. Cleveland was one of the mafia hotspots targeted and we are then given an extensive history of the Cleveland mafia. Penetration of the aforementioned branch of the mob increased dramatically in the 1970s through the likes of Steve Olah of the Cleveland Strike Force. He, himself, gives an account of the history and the situation as it stood when this programme was made. He touches on the remarkable Danny Greene, who headed an Irish crime syndicate intent on replacing the Italian mafia in Cleveland.

Yet again the documentary is enriched with archive interview footage with the man himself. The hitman eventually responsible for ‘whacking’ Greene, Ray Ferritto, tells his own story of the saga. He is another extraordinary interviewee. Greene’s very public death, led directly to the further development of the task force and their current high profile involvement in attacking the Cleveland mafia.

As for Ferritto, a hit was put out on him, so that the mafia could minimise the threat to themselves. Ferritto turned state’s evidence and the remainder of the episode deals with the trial of the Cleveland bosses, Ferrittos personal feelings on his precarious existence and the ongoing efforts of the strike force.

IMDB (5.8)

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