The series, Crimetown (https://gimletmedia.com/crimetown/), is a well-made production telling the story of organized crime and its effect on Rhode Island. While much of the story centers on Providence, the series illustrates the state and national implications of organized crime.
The producers, Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, did a masterful job of telling the story.
My issue with the series is with what followed.
Post-production images on social media of former investigators sipping cocktails with aging mobsters give the impression these were former opponents in the Super Bowl. Not opposing forces engaged in a fight against criminality.
These investigations of organized crime carried much higher implications to society. Law enforcement had its successes, but largely fought a battle it could not win.
The show, to some extent, perpetuated the many myths of the mob.
That “old school” mobsters didn’t deal drugs. That the streets of Federal Hill were safer when the mob ruled the neighborhoods.
All myths and fallacies whitewashing the truth.
If the mob could make money off cancer, it would.
If the mob didn’t deal drugs, they extracted a street tax from those who did. But the truth is it did more.
All one must do is read the story of The French Connection to see the mob’s early involvement in heroin. The latest revelations out of the Whitey Bulger case adds to the growing evidence of mob involvement in drugs.
The negative effect on society continues to this day, despite the ravages of time on ‘La Cosa Nostra.’ In Rhode Island, the legend of Patriarca lives on. The “I know a guy” wink and nod of doing business.
The once multi-tentacle reach of the mob into state government, the judiciary, and law enforcement may have faded, but the damage to confidence in government remains.
A former Major on the Rhode Island State Police, Lionel Benjamin, once compared the respect people had for (RISP) Colonel Walter Stone to the respect shown Raymond L.S. Patriarca by his men.
Really? That’s a standard we embrace in Rhode Island? This underscores my point.
To this day, if one mentions the name, Raymond, almost everyone in Rhode Island would know who that was. Not the same for Walter, which should make one wonder about such things.
Time has changed the mob. The ravages of age, nepotism, and cultural blending took their toll. They are a more nostalgic memory of “better” days than a powerful force. The state figured out a way to control gambling with the lottery and death, rather than indictments, silenced the once powerful men who ruled the Patriarca family.
Which brings me back to the point.
All those resources we sent after the mob, all those bookie wiretaps draining the lifeblood of organized crime, all those RICO indictments in Rhode Island and what do we have to show for it?
Images of once feared, amoral, and brutal men sipping cocktails with retired cops once tasked with arresting them. Talking about the old days like it was a football game.
It gives me pause.
Crimetown did a service by telling the story of what happened. Let’s make sure we don’t forget the ugly truth by continuing to embrace the myth of the mob. I’m willing to bet Raymond wouldn’t have had a Facebook page. He’d know better than to give people a peek into his reality.