war on crime following the Lindbergh kidnapping President Roosevelt and the

War on crime following the lindbergh kidnapping

This preview shows page 6 - 7 out of 22 pages.

war on crime following the Lindbergh kidnapping, President Roosevelt and the attorney general exploited other sensational crimes to advance specific legis- lative objectives. The early 1930s offered an abundance of grisly capers and colorful hoodlums such as George "Machine Gun" Kelly (who allegedly nicknamed the bureau's agents "G-men" or "Government-men" during his later capture), Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Alvin "Old Creepy" Karpis, and Kate "Ma" Barker and her son Fred. Mobile, opportunistic, and itching for something to do after the repeal of Prohibition, the gangsters of the early and mid-1930s exploited the limited jurisdiction of local and state police by fleeing across county, city, and state lines after rob- bing, for example, banks or trains. The most colorful gangster of all, John Dil- linger, robbed at least ten banks between May 10, 1933, and October 1933. Following several jail breaks, with Dillinger and confederates alternately busting one another out, the Bureau of Investigation was finally called in on the case-but only because Dillinger had fled to Chicago in a stolen car after escaping from the "escape proof" Crown Point County Jail in Indiana. President Roosevelt responded on January 3, 1934, in his annual message to Congress, identifying crime as a threat to "our security." "These . . . viola- tions of ethics," President Roosevelt added, "call on the strong arm of Govern- ment for their immediate suppression; they call also on the country for an aroused public opinion."'4 Attorney General Cummings was even more ex- plicit. "We are now engaged in a war that threatens the safety of our country," he announced in a widely publicized speech, "-a war with the organized forces of crime. " Then, at the height of the Dillinger investigation, Cumm issued a stark order to bureau agents: "Shoot to kill-then count ten."'5 The attorney general also asked Congress to enact the Roosevelt administration's crime-control package and succeeded in pushing it through in the super- charged anticrime climate. Only a few congressmen objected, complaining of yet another New Deal assault on states' rights. 16 head of a New York City detective agency, Farley's choice to head the bureau. [J. Edgar Hoover] memo, May 2, 1933, Val O'Farrell folder, Louis B. Nichols Unserialized Official and Confidential FBI Files (J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Washington). Under the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (as amended in 1974), the FBI releases photocopies of requested documents and not the originals. 13 Max Freedman, ed., Roosevelt and Frankfurter: Their Correspondence, 1928-1945 (Boston, 1967), 129. 14 Samuel Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (13 vols., New York, 1938-1950), III, 12-13. 15 Milton S. Mayer, "Myth of the 'G-Men,"' Forum, 94 (Sept. 1935), 145; Cook, FBI Nobody Knows, 154. See also Howard McLellan, "Shoot to Kill? A Note on the G-Men's Methods," Harper's Magazine, 172 (Jan. 1936), 236-44.
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