The Land Journal recently sat down with Scott M. Deitche, author of Cigar City Mafia, to talk about the history of organized crime in Tampa.
In the fifth part of the interview, Deitche described the low decline of organized crime that took place from the 1970s to the late 1990s. (See previous installments of this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four)
Deitche started off by describing what he referred to as the "first wave" of Cuban mafiosos that flourished in South Florida throughout the early 1960s. This first wave included men connected to the Trafficante family that were a part of the Anti-Castro movement and even took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Deitche then went on to describe how organized crime morphed throughout the next couple of decades, expanding its role in selling drugs such as cocaine as the popularity of illegal gambling decreased in the face of the now legal Florida Lottery.
As many of the mafia members aged, their health began to decline, leading to a decline in their illegal activities. Many of these men wanted their heirs to avoid lives of crime, and so they were not being replaced by sons and nephews that would follow in their bloody professions.
Deitche believes that the decline of the Tampa Mafia also has to do with the increase in opportunities and standards of living for immigrants throughout the later half of the twentieth century.
One aspect that sets the Tampa Mafia apart from others was that it's decline was not particularly due to law enforcement. While law enforcement agencies certainly played their part in attempting to take down Trafficante and other Tampa crime bosses, the Tampa Mafia's decline was due more to the aging of it's members than any steps taken by law enforcement.
Santo Trafficante Jr. himself had begun to have health issues by the 1970's and had passed away in 1987. While there remain some members of the old Tampa Mafia, they are now in their old age and have been inactive since the 1990's.
While South Florida still has a somewhat popular reputation of criminal activity, illegal gambling, opulent crime lords, and violent vendettas between rival gangsters, it has been many decades since these events actually occurred.
Watch the full interview below: