People’s drinking habits which were hard to curtail had in fact changed from the less-addictive beer which was harder to home produce to the stronger liquor like whiskey and bathtub gin which was more readily available. It had increased drinking even among women and children who were welcomed in the saloons. Hip flasks had become status symbols even for the young. Seventeen-year olds were even able to buy beer in speakeasies. Count Felix von Luckner, a visitor to the United States in 1927 made the following conclusions based on his observations:
The number of crimes and misdemeanors that originated in drunkenness has declined. But by contrast, a large part of the population has become accustomed to disregard and to violate the law without thinking. The worst is, that precisely as a consequence of the law, the taste for alcohol has spread ever more widely among the youth. The sporting attraction of the forbidden and the dangerous leads to violations. My observations have convinced me that many fewer would drink were it not illegal. Smuggling was rampant from sources coming in from Canada and Mexico.
In Canada alone, over one million gallons were illegally brought inside U. S. territory in the late 1920s. Even the small French islands of St. Pierre and Miquel had cut in into the action. In 1922, it imported 118,600 gallons of British liquor and it was highly unlikely that these were entirely consumed by its mere six thousand inhabitants. At the same time, enforcement of the law albeit erratic in cities was an extremely risky job. Between 1920 and 1928, there were records of forty-nine prohibition and two narcotic officers killed.
In the customs service, they recorded eight officers killed and 17 wounded in prohibition-related gunfights. While twenty-one were killed by the officers with six seriously wounded. For the Coast Guard, there were four guardsmen recorded killed and four seriously wounded also in gun battles on land and sea. Stuyvesant Fish, the former president of the Illinois Central Railroad presented the crime statistics during his testimony to the Senate. The numbers showed an increase in crime rate.
Police returns of thirty cities were compiled for the first two years of prohibition. For Akron, Ohio, there was a significant decline but this was attributed to the loss in population due to the collapse of the automobile tire industry. In general however, there was n increase in all crime categories and this did not even include New York and Chicago whose returns were not yet compiled at the time of the Senate hearing. It was predicted, however, that had they been included the incidences in crime would probably “overload the tabulation.
” Looking at the data, Stuyvesant pointed out the following: In these cities, which may fairly be said to represent the United States as a whole, we find in a single year that crime of all kinds (as shown by police arrests) has grown almost 24 per cent; that drunkenness and drunkenness coupled with disorderly conduct have grown more than 40 per cent; that theft, homicide, burglary, fraud and embezzlement, with other serious crimes, all show notable increases.
The futility of prohibition as a means of preventing men from drinking is shown in the increased arrests of intoxicated autoists, amounting to more than 80 per cent, and in the increase in the arrests for violation of the prohibition laws, amounting to more than 100 per cent. Perhaps, however, the most sinister item in the tabulation is that showing the growth of the deadly drug habit, the arrests indicating a jump of almost 45 per cent.
Between 1920 and 1921, the Federal Courts recorded an increase of 46,961 pending cases. In the Courts of Special Sessions and the Courts of Records, crime convictions increased by 14,825 while convictions for drunkenness increases by 5,004. 26 In 1994, Gertrud Himmelfarb looked into the national crime statistics available and discovered that for homicide, the national rate at the beginning of the twentieth century was 1.2 per 100,000 population.
However, during prohibition, it skyrocketed to as high as 9. 7 in 1933 just before it was repealed. The rate then went down to between five and six in the 1940s which was maintained up to the early 1960s. 27 Below is the U. S. Census Report of 1926. It showed the increase in the homicide rate during prohibition had begun from 1921, a year after it was enforced. From thereon, it steadily increased until its peak in 1933.