John Gotti was born on October 27, 1940. Until his death while serving a prison sentence, he was the godfather of the powerful crime gang family; the Gambino family.
He was dubbed “The Teflon Don”, because of his ingenuity in tricking America’s law enforcers and beating prosecutors in watertight cases. He had a dominant personality, was hot tempered and his readiness to fight made him the leader of a local gang. He was incarcerated for the first time in 1968 for hijacking trucks and got out in 1972 becoming the right hand-man to Carlo Gambino.
He killed James McBratney who had kidnapped and killed Gambino’s son thereby improving his status in the mafia. He later succeeded to the throne of the Gambino family after the death of Carlo Gambino. He was nicknamed The Dapper Don due to his meticulous appearance and cutting a public image with heroic activities (BBC, 2002; Mustain and Capeci, 2002).
Edwin Sunderland developed the differential association theory in criminology which embraces sociology in analyzing crime. He asserted that crime is a behavior that is learned by interacting with family, peers and or associations. By associating with them, people learn different techniques of crime, crime motives and specific rationale in crime.
The theory explains reasons for an individual’s deviant behavior. Sunderland asserted that an individual’s criminality will depend on the different associations that treat crime as either positive or negative such that when favorable deviance beat negative counterparts, crime paths are opened.
He further proposed that the associations vary in quality by duration, frequency, intensity and priority; he concludes that if an individual has earlier associations, crime will have greater influence on such an individual (Vandelay, 2010).
Robert Merton developed the strain theory also called the anomie theory. It has been acclaimed as one of the most influential sociological deviance assertion. According to Merton (n.d.), there is no inner drive for crime nor is crime of a single person but rather crime and deviance are normal aspects in our society. He further argues that crime is a requirement in our society for the society to achieve social progress and generate solidarity.
According to him, the social structure in our society is what gives birth to crime. He argues that the American social structure and its structure of wealth distribution and that dream of achieving the ‘American dream’ all require crime to maintain social stability in the face of structural inequality.
He argues that the norm of achieving the American dream is through monetary stability through hard work in school and then in the economic life, but also there is an admiration for such deviant behavior like that of a robber baron who breaks all the rules in the book but achieves success; through the deviant means.
Thus he concludes that in our societies especially by American standards, success is admired more than how it was gained. Success is thus emphasized more than the approved means of achieving that success (Merton, n.d.).
Analyzing Gotti’s criminal activities by using the above two criminal theories, we find that both apply in some ways or the other. We are told that that Gotti started his criminal activities as a young boy of 12 years. By interacting with his peers at that tender age, he was able to be their leader and was unable to stay crime free.
He later admired the Gambino family gang and by his association with them, he knew that by committing more serious crimes he could rise in ranking. He had greater influence in his criminal activities by virtue of his earlier association in crime (Smith, 2010).
The second theory above by Sunderland also does describe Gotti’s deviance remain in crime although it is not the right norm to achieving the American dream but all in all, who cares as long as he has achieved it; by being rich in monetary value.
People admired his success despite the means, he was the boss of ‘a new York City Gambino Crime Family and he was later to become the most powerful crime boss of his era. He had an outspoken personality and used to wearing expensive clothing earning him the name “The Dapper Don’.
This is a life most American consider “the American Dream’ and by any standards Gotti had achieved it despite the means. This seems used to keep him tight in crime and show off that despite how he achieves his American dream, he still lived large (Smith, 2010).
A sociological professor at New York University Jerome Skolnick has identified two types of criminal gangs; neighborhood based gangs (cultural gangs) and entrepreneurial gangs. Cultural gangs are the traditional turf oriented based in the neighborhood and involved in a number of crimes. Entrepreneurial gangs do exist purposely to gain wealth by criminal activities like that of sale of illegal drugs, manufacturing and or distributing such drugs (smith, 2010)
Gangster Disciple is a gang based in a neighborhood in Chicago. They have one major cultural background and despite the fact that they have expanded their operations into other places outside Chicago, they have their roots still based in the Chicago neighborhood. They are thus classified under cultural gangs (Smith, 2010).
Criminal activities take many forms. There are many theories which explain how criminal activities and how each is applied will depend on different circumstances.
BBC. (2002). John Gotti: The Teflon Don. BBC News. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1370984.stm
Merton, R. (n.d.). Robert Merton: Anomie Theory. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~bmork/2306/Theories/BAManomie.htm
Mustain, G and Capeci, J. (2002). Mob star: the story of John Gotti. New York, NY: Alpha.
Smith, N. (2010). Skolnick’s Gang Types. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/nathanmsmith.com/nathan-micah-smith—personal-homepage/blog/skolnicksgangtypes
Vandelay, A. (2010). Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory of Criminology. Associated content. Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5576924/edwin_sutherlands_differential_association_pg2.html?cat=7