Public enemies

Public enemies
Public enemies

When the average person is asked to name the most famous "public enemies" in the world of crime, the names he mentions are Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Ma Barker and the like. Among this group, despite the constant raging against them by the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover, Machine Gun Kelly never fired his weapon at anyone and Ma Barker was never so much as charged with a crime.

The press-conscious Hoover stole the idea from others and launched a publicity campaign in the early 1930s to dub a group of criminals, mostly little more than armed stickup men, the Public Enemies. At the time, Prohibition was ending and the old bootleg mobs were forming the new nationwide criminal syndicate. Apparently fearful and certainly uninterested in tangling with such major mobsters, Hoover concentrated his wrath on minor criminals, cloaking them in the mantle of master criminal.

For instance, while John Dillinger killed at most one person and his gang about nine others, Al Capone in Chicago was responsible for no less than 500 to as many as 1,000 murders. Had the full energies of Hoover's agency been turned on the major menace of the Capone-Luciano-Lansky organizations, it has been argued by many crime experts, organized crime today would be far less effective and pervasive, if not totally eliminated.

The first use of the term public enemies, before it was appropriated by Hoover, was made by Frank J. Loesch, a venerable corporation counsel and civic leader in Chicago and a founding member and longtime head of the Chicago Crime Commission.

He compiled a first list of 28 Chicago public enemies— "persons who are constantly in conflict with the law"—in an effort to counter the romantic aura with which certain elements of the most sensational press of the city and nation had endowed gangsters. Loesch's list included
  1. Al Capone
  2. Tony "Mops" Volpe
  3. Ralph Capone
  4. Frankie Rio
  5. Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn
  6. James Belcastro
  7. Rocco Fanelli
  8. Lawrence "Dago Lawrence" Mangano
  9. Jack Zuta
  10. Jake Guzik
  11. Frank Diamond
  12. George "Bugs" Moran
  13. Joe Aiello
  14. Edward "Spike" O'Donnell
  15. Joe "Polock Joe" Saltis
  16. Frank McErlane
  17. Vincent McErlane
  18. William Neimoth
  19. Danny Stanton
  20. Myles O'Donnell
  21. Frank Lake
  22. Terry Druggan
  23. William "Klondike" O'Donnell
  24. George "Red" Barker
  25. William "Three-Fingered Jack" White
  26. Joseph "Peppy" Genero
  27. Lee Mongoven
  28. James "Fur" Sammons
Almost any member of this list would make Hoover's "public enemies" look like boy scouts.