Alphonse ("Scarface") Capone (1899-1947), the most famous U.S. gangster of the twentieth century, became head of the Chicago crime syndicate in 1925. Two years later, the 28-year-old gangster was grossing "105 million a year from his operations. He continued to dominate organized crime until 1931, when he was imprisoned for income tax evasion" (Wallechinsky & Wallace, 1981, p. 496), an incongruously minor infraction compared to the bloodshed he actually left behind.
No other American gangster rose to the international reputation of Al Capone, whose historical image is a curious blend of ruthless gangster and a "distorted Horatio Alger hero who went from rags to riches to jail" (Nash, 1992, p. 78). Nash (1992) goes on to characterize Capone as "a ruthless, murderous thug who killed without remorse--street smart, clever, and ingenious when it came to crime . . . killing without compunction . . . at the whims of a mercurial and murderous temperament" (p. 78). Capone killed his friends as well as his enemies, while at the same time spending lavishly on himself and those about him. In fact, as Nash (1992) notes, Capone "projected an image of generosity, of a philanthropist to the common man" (p. 78).
In Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone, a brilliantly written and superbly documented biography by John Kobler (1992), the author presents Capone's Brooklyn neighborhood as a fertile ground for criminal behavior (p. 19). In fact, the early Italian immigrants "tended to place loyalty to family and community above loyalty to their adopted country, and they did not necessarily condemn those who transgressed against the new society, even the hoodlum and the racketeer; sometimes . . . they invested the outlaw with heroic stature, as long as he kept faith with his community and above all, remained a good family man" (Kobler, 1992, p. 19).
Behavior theory provides the most comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding ...