|Modern Purple Gang|
A new Purple Gang evolved in New York City in the late 1970s, taking its name from the legendary Detroit Purple Gang of Prohibition infamy. It would take quite a collection of deadly mobsters to live up to such a fabled moniker, but the newer-look Purples, say authorities, justify the accolade. In fact, the new Purples have often been called New York's sixth crime family, deserving of all the angry attention of the five established mafioso outfits.
All quite young—in their 20s or 30s—the new Purples graduated from "gofer" positions for established narcotics traffickers to become, says the Drug Enforcement Administration, a criminal organization with an "enormous capacity for violence" and a "lack of respect for other members of organized crime." Small by comparison to the established families, the new Purples number somewhat more than 100.
Membership is restricted to young Italian Americans who were raised on Pleasant Avenue between 110th and 117th Streets in East Harlem—still an underworld stronghold where deals are constantly struck between mafioso narcotics traffickers and the new black gangs that have taken over the street operations in the drug racket.
Money-hungry, these youths, almost all graduates from youth gangs, are feared by the underworld and police authorities as well. There is considerable worry that the Purple Gang will eventually start a shooting war against both the Mafia families and the blacks. Members of the gang talk openly of having control of all drug trafficking on the East Coast.
Indeed, as long as the Purples remain on the scene, it is presumptuous, and in fact laughable, to talk of an emerging "Black Mafia." The Purples seem also to be establishing ties with the Latino drug traffickers, and they may also prove the masters of the so-called Latin, or Cuban, Mafia as well.
In the late 1970s the New York Times traced the activities of the gang and found it was dominant in the large-scale distribution of drugs in the South Bronx and Harlem. The Purples were also pulling muscle jobs for two crime families' extortion activities, as well as carrying out the murders of at least 17 victims, including two police plants. Supplementing their drug activities, the Purples are deeply involved in international gunrunning and are alleged to have direct ties to certain Latin American terrorists.