By the time the delinquents grew into adults and prohibition corrupted an entire country the Purple Gang controlled all the rackets in Detroit. They began by hijacking booze shipments being smuggled across the river from Canada by independent operators and they eventually controlled all smuggling of booze into Detroit. By 1929 bootlegging was the second most important industry in the city with only automobile production making more money. The gang ran the numbers racket and all the betting shops where gamblers placed bets on horse races from all around the country. They kidnapped and held for ransom men who ran speakeasies and gambling halls, and other illegal businesses because the gang knew these men wouldn't go to the police.
The Purple Gang were notoriously violent and never hesitated to murder anyone who tried to cut into their territory or even operate without their consent or a share of the profits. The Detroit Police Department estimated, without proof to support their claim, the gang was responsible for 500 solved and unsolved murders between 1925 and 1929. Even if that estimate was grossly over-inflated and the gang was responsible for only half that number of killings it would be an outrageous tally of assassinations.
This is a compulsively readable tale of the most notorious and violent gang of criminals ever to
operate in Michigan.
The Elusive Purple Gang: Detroit's Kosher Nostra by Gregory A. Fournier. Wheatmark, 2020, $18.95 pb.
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