Chicago, like most metropolitan areas, has a storied history of criminal enterprise, including organized crime and serial killings. Throughout history, criminals have called Chicago home - some by birth, others by deeds committed while residing nearby. The scope of crimes associated with Chicago runs the gamut from kidnappings to robberies, with noted offenders making names for themselves in each criminal category. While it isn't necessarily the claim to fame cities aspire to, Chicago boasts a number of criminals elevated to household-name status, including these notorious Illinois connections.
John Dillinger - The adulation surrounding Dillinger in his day rivaled that of stars and starlets, despite his notorious status as a criminal. The Great Depression was in full swing as Dillinger plied his trade, so public perception was altered by desperation and futility. To many people living during these hard times, Dillinger and other criminals represented hope, of sorts, drawing admirers for their ability to take matters into their own hands, despite economic oppression.
Dillinger was born in Indianapolis in 1903. Despite being born to a middle-class family with access to education and employment, Dillinger's troubles began in his teens. Responding to his failure to socialize properly living in the city, Dillinger's father moved the family to a rural setting, on a farm. Despite the change, Dillinger continued down the wrong path, eventually being convicted for robbing a grocery store and handed a particularly harsh sentence for the act. After more than 8 years in prison, Dillinger stepped into the spotlight almost immediately following his release. His subsequent crime spree traversed the Midwest, including stops in Chicago to rob banks. In a much heralded move, agents from Bureau of Investigation killed Dillinger as he left Chicago's Biograph Theater, in 1934.
John Wayne Gacy - Chicago's North Side was where John Gacy's family lived at the time of his birth. The reputed killer had a normal upbringing, by all accounts, and enjoyed scouting activities shared with other's his age. While he was not especially charismatic of popular, his social standing among peers was not entirely dysfunctional. His criminal life became public in 1968, when Gacy confessed to sodomizing a young man against his will. Though convicted and sentenced to 10 years for the Iowa crime, Gacy was released in 1970, before returning to his native Chicago.
Early-on, after returning to Chicago, Gacy was accused of forcing a young man to perform sex acts, but the charges were dropped when the accuser failed to follow through with charges. Gacy carried-on a grand façade for several years, despite brushes with the law and rumors about his homosexual tendencies. After several young male employees of his contracting firm went missing, and a survivor identified Gacy's vehicle, police began looking closely at his history. In one of the most grisly and highly publicized murder cases in history, John Wayne Gacy was linked to more than thirty killings and the subsequent burial of bodies under his home.
Ted Kaczynski - Raised in Chicago, the infamous "Unabomber" began his campaign of terror in 1978 by mailing an explosive device to a Chicago university. For 17 subsequent years, Kaczynski would continue to target victims with explosive devices, eventually killing three people and wounding dozens more. It wasn't until 1995 that investigators turned the corner on the case, after receiving a 35,000 word manifesto from someone claiming to be responsible for the crimes. Kaczynski's brother recognized parallels between his brother's views and those expressed in the diatribe against society. The Unabomber was taken into custody in 1996, and was sentenced for his crimes in 1998.
Al Capone - Of all Chicago criminals, Al Capone is perhaps the most notorious. The reputed gangster ran an enterprise in Chicago that included various illicit activities and escalated to killing competitors and others unwilling to get in step with his illegal endeavors. Born in Brooklyn, Capone arrived in Chicago in 1919, quickly carving out his place in local lore. Throughout the twenties, Capone had his hand in gambling, prostitution, distilling and brewing operations, as well as holding interests in legitimate businesses. The culture and climate were just right for gaining illicit profits, which Capone did efficiently. Perhaps the most audacious crime attributed to Capone's gang was the St Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929. On that day, Rival gang members were savagely riddled with bullets in the hideout of Bugs Moran, killing six members of Moran's crew and an innocent associate.
Eventually convicted and jailed for income tax evasion, Capone spent time at Alcatraz, before being released in 1939. He died a free man in 1947 after suffering a stroke.
These are only a few of the high-profile criminals linked to the city of Chicago, which gained a reputation for lawlessness during the depression. While times have changed, these cases provide interesting glimpses into the city's history of law and order.