Chicago Gang History

Cicero

NameCicero
AliasUnknown. Submit info.
Worst AreasThe highest crime area currently is: Cermak Road on the north, 28th Street on the south, Central Avenue on the east, 59th Court on the west. the next toughest areas that actually were historically the toughest area at times are: The ParkHolme section at 16th Street on the north, Cermak Road on the south, 50th Avenue on the east, 54th Avenue on the west. 31st Street to Central Avenue to 35th Street on the north, Pershing Road on the south, Laramie Avenue on the east, 59th Avenue on the west. The next to toughest area was actually the most violent in the past but now has cleaned up a little but still has higher crime, this is the Grant Works section which is: Roosevelt Road on the north, 16th Street on the south, the Cicero/Chicago border on the east, 50th Avenue on the west
Year Infiltrated1967
Current Housing ProjectsNone
Demolished Housing ProjectsNone
Crime ImpactUnknown. Submit info.

 

When discussing the history of the town of Cicero Illinois, often Al Capone will come up in the conversation.  Al Capone became synonymous with Cicero, because he built an empire of organized crime and corruption in this community and even after he passed away and even after organized crime mostly left the western suburban community, his influence remained a part of Cicero.  Cicero was the first suburb in the Chicago metro area that had organized crime influence and it also became the first suburb to have a major street gang issues.  Cicero is also the first and only suburb in the Chicago metro area to have successful suburban born gangs that have been in existence starting in the late 1960s like the Twelfth Streets Player and Noble Knights. 

I do not know much about the early history of the first settlers of Cicero.  The boundaries for the town were drawn out in 1849 and the name Cicero was decided because it took after the name of Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero that proposed democratic principles in the first century in Rome.  By the year 1857 the settlers in this region organized Cicero Township to govern the area and collect taxes for development.  In the year 1869 a portion of Cicero Township became the town of Cicero, then in that same year the city of Chicago annexed part of Cicero into the city to become North Lawndale. 

In the later decades of the 19th century Cicero became a manufacturing and railroad town and by the 1880s the population boomed, and as the boom happened the city of Chicago wanted to annex more of Cicero, in 1889 Chicago took half of the town then in 1899 another large northern portion was taken away that was absorbed to become the Austin neighborhood.  In the year 1901 more annexation away from Cicero happened as Oak Park and Berwyn wanted communities of their own, regardless, of the mass annexations Cicero still remained a larger suburb bordering Chicago.

In the year 1904, Western Electric opened its doors and immediately employed more than 20,000 people who created a massive wave of new residents and construction in Cicero.  Many of the newly arrived Cicero residents were eastern European immigrants; there was also a large influx of Italian immigrants.

Industry is not what ended up making the town of Cicero famous; it was organized crime and government corruption then later street gangs that made the suburb notorious.  It was in the year 1923 that Chicago outfit boss Johnny Torrio was having major issues with Chicago’s newly elected Mayor William Dever.  Dever wanted to clamp down on organized crime and was not to be bought off by the Outfit like previous Mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson could be.  Torrio then instructed his right hand man Al Capone to find another base of operation that was outside of the city limits and free of Chicago laws and that was when Al Capone chose the industrial western suburb.

The biggest opportunity for a takeover of Cicero for the Outfit came along in 1924 when it came election time for a new Mayor of the suburb.    Joseph Klenha was currently serving on the town committee as the City Manager and when Capone first arrived Klenha was already on the payroll with the Chicago Outfit, now both the Outfit and Klenha wanted the City Manager to become the next Mayor, because a corrupt Mayor would ease the mass expansion of Torrio’s empire into Cicero. 

In April of 1924, Al Capone’s brother Frank Capone was in charge of pushing voters to vote for Klenha by any means necessary.  If any voters were known to not vote for Klenha they were pushed to vote the other way, and if they refused they were beaten by Capone’s gang of thugs.  Capone took over the voting polls, as his henchmen stood guard with Tommy Guns and shotguns telling people to vote Klenha, if people refused they were either beaten on the spot or they were sent home and not allowed to vote.  Cicero had 143 saloons where the majority supported and permitted illegal gambling operations in the community and Torrio’s gang wanted to take all of those over, but in order to do so they needed this Republican candidate to win this election.

Rudolph J. Hurt was the Democrat candidate chosen to dare run against Klenha, the Chicago Outfit made Hurt and his campaign managers really suffer for it.  March 31st 1924 was complete chaos on the streets of Cicero as rioters supporting both sides clashed and brawled in the streets.  On this night of March 31st Al and Frank Capone’s henchmen showed up to the headquarters of Rudolph Hurt and lit the place up in a hail of automatic gun fire, Hurt narrowly escaped as gunman blasted at him nearly mowing him down in a barrage of .45 caliber gun fire from the gangster’s Chicago typewriters of death.  In another part of town at 5702 22nd Street which was the office of William K. Pflaum who was Democratic candidate for town clerk, six henchman burst into Pflaum’s office and pistol whipped Pflaum with revolvers, punched the other men in the face at the scene with brass knuckles after they tried to stop the attack, the henchmen then shot bullets into the ceiling then fled the scene all this happened while Pflaum’s wife, sister and son and one other child witnessed the attack.  That same March day, five men and a 14 year old boy were attacked by rioters for handing out democrat propaganda (Chicago Tribune Page 1, April 1, 1924).  Even Cicero police were not safe if they tried to enforce the law and stop the South Side Gang, officers were beaten just like Democrat voters.  A large number of Cicero police were already on the payroll by Capone anyway.  Even though Dever was not the Mayor of Cicero and had nothing to do with it, he was still furious about what had been happening in the suburb and that the South Side Gang set up there to avoid Dever’s takedown.  Dever then put plain clothed Chicago police into the suburb to do as they pleased.  The officers then did not have to follow police procedures in Cicero.  The plain clothed cops then drove up to the polling riots at Western Electric and mowed down Johnny Torrios men in an onslaught of gun fire that ended up taking the life of Frank Capone.

When the 1924 election was over with, Klenha won the election, which became a major victory for Johnny Torrio’s South Side Gang.  Al Capone got to work taking over one saloon after another, forcing all of them to do business with him.  If there was refusal bones were broken or worse lives were taken.  Capone visited local bootleggers that supplied many of the saloons and paid many of them off, the ones that refused entered into a losing war with the South Side Gang.  Al Capone then took over the Hawthorne Inn at 4835 west 22nd Street and made this the new Cicero headquarters; Cicero was then given the nickname “Caponeville.”

In January 1925, Johnny Torrio stepped down as the boss of the Chicago Outfit after a nearly successful assassination attempt and Al Capone took the reins.  Capone’s direct influence over Cicero lasted until he was jailed in the fall of 1931 for tax evasion.  With the loss of Capone, Klenha was not re-elected as Mayor in the 1932 election, regardless, the Chicago Outfit kept a strong influence on Cicero for many years to come.

After Al Capone was imprisoned in 1932, Jack Guzik took over Cicero operations and became a slot machine king.  The slot machine, also known as the one armed bandit, could be found in just about every saloon in town, and a majority of the profits went straight into the Outfit’s pockets.  Guzik had the chief of police and several police officers and Cicero government officials on the payroll.  The transition from Capone to Guzik was indeed a smooth one which kept the Outfit running this suburb, controlling the all night saloons and almost all of the gambling.  By 1946, the federal government was breathing down the neck of Guzik and his gambling syndicate, and by 1947 Guzik was being brought up on tax evasion charges forcing him to surrender the top Cicero position, the position now went to Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa.

By the time Joey Doves took over, Cicero had become a major money making machine thanks to illegal gambling, slot machines and prostitution.  Joey Doves focused much of his energy on “The Strip” which was a stretch along Cicero Avenue of saloons with slot machines and illegal gambling dens; it was also an ideal spot for vice operations.  Aiuppa owned several real estate ventures and made that one of his specialties outside of Cicero, he raked in massive profits from this operation, as he also ruled Cicero tightly all throughout the 1950s and 1960s decades.  Aiuppa was not known as “Joey Doves” until 1966 when he was actually convicted for attempting to smuggle mourning doves across state lines.  Aiuppa was already in hot water with the FBI for smuggling in 563 frozen doves in his car in 1962, that prosecution was stalled but after the incident in 1966 which he violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, he was sentenced to three months in county jail, and that is how the Joey Doves nickname came to be.  In 1971, Aiuppa was promoted and became the boss of the entire Chicago Outfit; therefore he left Cicero to James “The Turk” Torello who became the 1970s Cicero mob boss until his death in 1979.

Cicero was not only a mob influenced town, it was also a town that liked to be a white community.  African Americans were especially not wanted in this suburb and residents were ready to keep blacks out by any means necessary.  One such incident occurred in July of 1951, when a black family moved into an apartment at 6139 west 19th Street.  Over 3,000 rioters showed up trying to burn down the building where the black family lived as the National Guard worked tirelessly to put down the riot.  Harvey E. Clark, a 29 year old bus driver rented the apartment for his family, as soon as word got out the black family had moved in a major riot went on outside the building for a few days, as the Clark families’ possessions were smashed and thrown outside the apartment.  The Clark family then agreed to evacuate Cicero entirely and African Americans no longer felt like it was safe to move to the suburb. 

The rights of African Americans to live in the suburb were tested again in August of 1966 when a Martin Luther King led march was scheduled to occur in the suburb following the beating death of Jerome Huey.  Huey had simply come to Cicero seeking employment and was inquiring with store owners.  A gang of 3 white youths spotted Huey then grabbed a baseball bat and proceeded to beat the 17 year old until he was dead at the intersection of 25th Place and Laramie on May 25, 1966.  The reason for the beating was being black in Cicero is the best way to sum it up.  Martin Luther King then scheduled a march on the streets of Cicero to the spot where the boy was killed to protest against the unfair treatment of blacks in Cicero and to exploit the extreme hate the community had toward blacks.  When it came time for the late August March, King had cancelled the march because of an agreement with Chicago public officials; however, a splinter group out of King’s organization took to the streets themselves without King on Labor day weekend.  The Nazi party led by George Lincoln Rockwell attempted to petition to protest on that day as well but city hall rejected their application.  Even though the Nazi party was not allowed to protest, they were not needed because there was enough hate in the community driven down on the protestors just from Cicero citizens.  As the protestors marched they were greeted by glass bottles, bricks and even firecrackers.  The black protestors were spat on and racial slurs were screamed at them, until there was a skirmish at the tail end of the march which caused police officers to suffer injuries.

The march of 1966 brought about more racial tensions between Cicero and the African American community of Chicago.  In 1968 those tensions turned into fear right after the assassination of Martin Luther King and the violent riots were ripping through the west side neighborhoods of Chicago.  Cicero residents feared the riots would come to Cicero and these riots were much more hostile than the peaceful protest of 1966.  The Black P Stones had grown into a very large and complex organization by 1968 and were a major part of the riots; therefore, white youths began to prepare for an invasion of groups like the Black P Stones or the Black Panthers.  Cicero youths also began to conflict with Mexican and white gangs from the nearby South Lawndale (Little Village) neighborhood that bordered the south side of Cicero, while white youths in the Grant Works section on the north side were preparing to fight Vice Lords from North Lawndale that bordered the northern half of the Cicero community.

Two main gangs emerged on the streets of Cicero that called themselves greasers; these were the Arch Dukes and Roman Lords.  These two very young gangs were standing guard and getting ready to fight but they soon found most of their fights against Mexican and white gangs from Little Village as they battled with Latin Kings, Two Six and Ridgeway Lords.  The Arch Dukes considered the Ridgeway Lords to be one of their worst enemies, as Ridgeway Lords very frequently crossed over Cicero Ave to start fights.  When the MLK riots began in 1968 a new gang came to Cicero known as the Cicero Esquires.

The greaser street gangs of Cicero were invented to protect the neighborhood from outsiders back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, plain and simple but by the early 1970s the gang violence soon became frequent and plentiful as Cicero police struggled to maintain order on the streets.  The birth of the Noble Knights street gang along with the Cicero Esquires’ evolving into the Twelfth Street Players brought more gang disputes and violence than ever.  The Twelfth Street Players were the younger generation of Esquires while the Noble Knights spawned out of the Arch Dukes as a younger generation faction and both gangs were sworn to protect the north side of Cicero. 

For years the Cicero police officers and local government figures that were free of corruption were hot on the tail of Joey Doves and his gambling syndicate in the suburb but by 1972 the focus needed to shift off of the Outfit and onto street gangs as they were swelling in numbers and were spinning out of control.  The Cicero police department now developed 3 special police units that strictly dealt with street gangs.  The fact that three units were needed in this community proved how severe Cicero’s gang problem was turning into already, while most other suburbs had no gang activity.  By the late 1970s Cicero’s gangs became increasingly violent.  In 1977 there was a reported 12 gang related shootings, 50 cases of guns fired by gang members and 40 reported gang related stabbings and beatings.  In 1978, Cicero police were investigating the vandalizing of 25 stores and restaurants by gang members.  Between the years 1977 and 1979 there were a reported 4 gang related homicides in the suburb.  The late 1970s violence and heavy gang activity prompted 100 residents in the Grant Works sections to protest at city hall in 1980 that more police protection was needed against the growing gang issues (Chicago Tribune Page 14, August 19, 1984).

In the year 1980, Mexican migration began in the Cicero suburb.  Many, long time Cicero residents were moving out of the suburb due to elevated crime and the massive influx of gangs.  Property values were dropping in the suburb especially in the Grant Works and Parkholme sections of the suburb making the area much more affordable for lower income Mexican families migrating from the Little Village and Marshall Square communities primarily.  Within the influx of Mexican families from Little Village came members of the Latin Kings.  Within the influx of Mexican families from Marshall Square came members of the Two Two Boys.  Within a matter of days or weeks the South Lawndale gangs both recruited heavily within the Grant Works and Parkholme sections of the community. 

In the early 1980s the Latin Kings and Two Two Boys became extremely popular with white youths in the community and especially Two Two Boys would grow into very large numbers and would spread throughout the community, even on the south side of Cicero.  The Roman Lords had retired from gang activity by the mid-1970s and now in the early 1980s the Arch Dukes were shrinking in numbers leaving the streets to the Noble Knights that were only growing in popularity.  The Noble Knights and Two Two Boys battled viciously over their aggressive recruiting campaigns as the two gangs became the largest gangs in the community.  The Two Two Boys and Latin Kings were vicious rivals since the 1960s and took their wars to the streets of Cicero.  As Latin Kings battled Two Two Boys, Noble Knights and Twelfth Street Players found common ground with Latin Kings and these homemade Cicero gangs joined the People nation alliance in 1980 and ganged up on the Two Two Boys.  The gangs were also frequenting the many all-night bars in the community by 1981, and late into the night hours after many drinks were consumed gang fights, stabbings and shootings began happening outside these bars.

By the year 1984, Latin Kings, Noble Knights, Twelfth Street Players and Two Two Boys were completely identified by Cicero police and were wreaking havoc in the neighborhood as their numbers swelled into the thousands in combined membership.  Now there were more than just these four gangs in the neighborhood as now Pilsen gangs were moving into the neighborhood as well such as: Bishops, Ambrose and Latin Counts.  The Imperial Gangsters opened up territory in the early to mid-1980s as well and hailed from the north side of Chicago.  Cicero police were stepping up patrols in the Grant Works section and now dealing with 8 different gangs.  The new program had police arresting 20-40 individuals every night starting in July 1984.  There were 4 major gangs operating in Cicero and 4 other new comers that were growing.  The Mayor at the time Henry Klosak had a very tough stance on gangs and referred to them as “punks.”  When complaints came in that Cicero police were too harsh on the youths and harassing innocent children, Mayor Klosak’s response was “We know most of these gang members, I tell the parents, if you can’t handle your kids, we will.”  These were harsh words that showed there was a new turning point in Cicero law enforcement against gangs that would become legendary (Chicago Tribune Page 14, August 19, 1984).

Despite heavier police patrols and a tough Mayor the gangs continued to grow in size and became increasingly violent in the mid-1980s.  The all night bars were becoming sights of serious violence as nearby residents complained of gang violence outside them and couples having intercourse on front lawns at 6 or 7 in the morning right after the bars finally closed as school children walked by and witnessed it.  By 1985 citizens were complaining to city hall about these all night bars, especially Mr. C’s Lounge located at 2421 S. Laramie Ave. 

By the late 1980s, gang related violence and recruitment intensified further on the streets of Cicero as now the same 7 out of 8 gangs were still operating by 1989.  The Imperial Gangsters had gone extinct by 1989, but the other 7 gangs were operating successfully bringing in heavy recruitment.  The crack cocaine epidemic caused more gang activity in the suburb than ever and of course more drug related murders.  Many longer time residents of the suburb began packing their bags in the late 1980s as more Mexican families moved in.  The property values were lower than ever in Cicero making the area more attractive to lower income Chicagoans. 

The early 1990s were perhaps the most violent years in the suburb as more new gangs gained a foothold in the community, especially in the Grant Works section.  Harrison Gents, Latin Jivers and Spanish Cobras moved into the suburb from the north side of Chicago while Satan Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Insane Majestics, La Raza, Sin City Boys and Two Six came from the south side of the city and opened turf in the suburb.  Conservative Vice Lords at last opened territory in the suburb from the west side of Chicago.  Cicero became a violent war zone with shootings on a daily basis and became just as violent as some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.  Cicero became a mean and hard suburb and was even feared and respected by Chicago gang members. 

In the mid-1990s more gangs entered the suburb such as: Latin Pachucos, Gangster Party People, Mafia Insane Vice Lords, Milwaukee Kings and Ashland Vikings.  Gang violence had perhaps hit its peak during these years and law enforcement became extremely tough on gangs, some critics even said it was too tough.  Stories flew around that gang members were beaten severely by Cicero police or driven to rival gang neighborhoods and left to their fate.  I personally heard a story, not sure if it is true, that back in the 90s police would round up several gang members, cuff them and hit them in their testicles until they dropped, and if they dropped they were beaten badly.  I had heard another story that a Two Two Boy was rounded up by police and forced to wear a cardboard sign that said “I hate Bishops” and stand in Bishop’s hood on the corner for quite some time, just like Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard With a Vengeance.  I was also told a story once by an acquaintance that had a friend that went to Cicero and got lost, he then pulled up to a gas station to get directions, a gang member overheard he was lost and also spotted a rival gang member.  The gang member that overheard the man was lost pulled out a gun and blew the rival gang members head open killing him instantly then kindly turned to the lost man and gave him directions then said “have a good one” then left.  I am not sure if any of those stories are true but I would not doubt that they could be true.

The Cicero streets were indeed tough to deal with for law enforcement so they had to take drastic measure to install any kind of fear into gang members.  Government corruption severely inhibited Cicero’s ability to fight crime and gangs in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s but by the 21st century Cicero began to experience a turn around on crime and gang activity.  Cicero’s gang and crime problems have been greatly reduced since the 21st century and the crime rates have even scored low at many points in time.