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How Rational Choice Theory Applied In The Life Of Frank Lucas
Rational choice theory is a method for understanding how human behaviors is influenced by the goals one seeks to achieve rather than the means used to achieve the goals. By making a rational choice, an individual looks at the most cost effective means to achieve a specific goal to maximize personal gain. In criminology, rational choice theory applies when analyzing the relationship between means and goals and between costs and benefits in the quest to arrive at the best possible choice. The life and times of the infamous drug lord, Frank Lucas, provides one of the best studies of the application of rational choice theory in crime.
The motivations and exploits behind the success of Frank Lucas’ drug business can best be understood by examining his biography. He was born in 1930 in La Grange and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. Growing up in the rural areas during the Great Depression Lucas lived in the same poor conditions like the other Africa-Americans. His childhood experiences provided the greatest motivation for his criminal life. For instance he remembers with clarity the day he witnessed the murder of his twelve year old cousin by the Ku Klux Klan for the crime of looking at a white woman flirtatiously.
Being the oldest boy in the family, Lucas was faced with a task of finding means of survival not only for himself but for his siblings too. Finding a job during the Great Depression was made even more difficult by his African-American status. The only alternative for survival was to steal food for family which later progressed to mugging intoxicated patrons of a local bar. These were the beginnings of his criminal career. Later he would get a job but would hardly hold on to the job long enough. In his first job, Lucas did not only sleep with his boss’ daughter but stole four hundred dollars before setting the company premises on fire. The incident forced him to seek refuge in Harlem for fear of being sent to prison (Biography.com).
Lucas arrived in Harlem in the year 1946 with a mind set on making money on the streets thorough illegal gambling and drugs. His zealousness and ambition to succeed led to a series of crimes ranging from robbing a local pub at gun point to stealing a tray of diamonds from a jewelry store and breaking into a high-stakes crap game at a local club to rob the players. Every move he made turned him into a more ruthless gangster. His reputation earned him recognition by a long time Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. He joined the Johnson gang after shooting a fellow drug dealer over a business deal.
Though nobody can accurately tell how close Lucas became to Johnson, it is evident that he must have been his right hand man for he took over the helm of the drugs business in Harlem after the death of Johnson (Johnson 159). It is also probable that after Johnson’s death in 1968, a leadership vacuum was created in Harlem. Lucas, being the most streetwise gangster at the moment, seized the opportunity and gained control over the drugs business. The man whose dream was to be as rich as Donald Trump had arrived and he immediately set in motion his ambitious plans to control and improve the drug trade in a style he called “backtracking.”
Frank Lucas was industrious enough to take the drug industry to another level. He would lock himself in a hotel room for a month or two away from any distraction to come up with the best way to make money from the drug business. His backtracking style involved going back to his past experiences and linking it to the present and future conditions to come up with solutions for improving operations. This showed that Frank Lucas knew that to take over from Johnson’s operation he had to be brilliant enough to learn from past mistakes.
The biggest challenge to Lucas was in dealing with the Italian Mafia operatives who were the middlemen in the drug trade. He believed in being directly involved from the source of heroin in Thailand to the customers in Harlem as the best way of gaining total control of the trade. The Vietnam War was at its height by 1968. It provided a lucrative opportunity to many drug businessmen including Frank Lucas. Most of the U.S personnel in Vietnam had already become addicted to heroin and provided a steady market when they returned home. Lucas was not one to miss out on this opportunity and knew the best way of exploiting this market fully was by travelling to Thailand to make direct contact with the source of heroin.
The potential for risk is always present in every business venture but in the drug trade the risks were even higher. Lucas well understood the risks involved but could not let them, or anything else for that matter, stand in the way of his quest of controlling the drug empire in the streets of Harlem. With the help of his cousin’s husband, Leslie “Ike” Atkinson who ran a bar frequented by African American soldiers, Lucas was able to establish a way of transporting drugs from Thailand to the US using military transport.
The creation of what Lucas termed as army inside an army through bribing high ranking military officers facilitated the international trafficking of heroine. These officers were from both the American and the Vietnamese sides. The recruitment of all members in Lucas’ operation was conducted personally. This enabled him to oversee his operations from the poppy fields in Thailand to the streets of Harlem. In Harlem his brothers who were known as the “country boys” controlled the distribution.
Frank Lucas understood well enough that an affordable price would increase demand for his heroin and thus he sold his supply at relatively cheap price. His ability to source for heroine from the planters at a cheaper price made it possible for him to sell it at a relatively low price but to a large customer base. At the time a kilo of heroin in Thailand cost four thousand dollars while the street price in New York was fifty thousand dollars. With no middle men Frank found it easy to control the price in the streets. This is one of the key factors that facilitated his taking over and control of the drug business in Harlem. The business was performed in a strict code of operations that involved instilling fear and respect in all who were part of the int.............
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