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Chicago Crime and Punishment

This is a guide to historical sources on crime focusing on the collections in the Chicago Collections Consortium.

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What You'll Find in this Guide

Crime in Chicagoland goes back to the area's first documented murder of Jean La Lime at the hands of John Kinzie in 1812. As Chicago grew so did its underworld, birthing a relationship between criminals and politicos that continued for many generations. Gangs and conspiracies have come and gone, making pop culture icons out of some (Capone, Dillinger) and bringing notoriety to others (Burge, Blagojevich). Communities formed coalitions to advocate for better policing and to curb social problems. Members of Chicago's judicial system kept some crime at bay but some also participated in illegal activities.

This subject guide contains resources from the members of the Chicago Collections Consortium about these people, issues, and crimes. These resources include archival collections, books, and online sources. You can send us any questions or issues you have with this guide via ASK Chicago Collections.

Please note that while each archival collection will note the institution where it can be viewed, the books do not. Clicking on the title's WorldCat link will bring up a list of libraries in your area that have the book.

Chicago Daily News, Inc., photographer, William F. Waugh facing Al Capone, 1929. Chicago History Museum,