Baltimore Police Vice Squad
and Al Scarface Capone
Alphonse Gabriel Capone, also known as Scarface, was an American gangster who attained fame during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Mafia. Alphonse Gabriel Capone, also known as Scarface, was an American gangster who attained fame during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Mafia.
We received a question from a visitor to the Baltimore Police Museum, Baltimore Police website, or Baltimore City Police History Website regarding an ancestor of theirs by the name of Frank Warns [Patrolman Frank Warns]. The writer had grown up being told through family stories that his great grandfather [Patrolman Warns] had some kind of involvement with an escort or transport of Al Capone. He was questioning his involvement in the transport/escort to investigate we had to first see if Al Capone had ever been arrested in Baltimore City, or if he was ever known to have been in Baltimore at all. We learned during the era of organized crime in our country's history Alphonse Capone lived with family members on Pimlico Rd. in Baltimore City from Nov of 1939 to March of 1940 while he was said to have been receiving medical treatment at Union Memorial. The following was our response.
We don't show any arrests on Al Capone in Baltimore, but he did stay in Baltimore for a few months in a house located at 5708 Pimlico Rd. His stay was with relatives while he was seeking medical treatment. Capone at the time was in his early 40's he had just been released from Federal Prison and was dealing with health issues distinct from his weight having dropped from well over 200 pounds down to around, or just under 165lbs. As far as we can see there were no criminal issues pending at the time; or at least none that could be found or confirmed. On and after his release from medical care he was escorted/transported out of the city heading south. It was reported that he might have been headed south to his home in Palm Island Florida. This in and of itself was odd as there were confirmed reports that he [Al Capone] was barred from the state of Florida. We should explain this some; one report said he was leaving for some sort of court hearing, another said he was banned or barred from entering the State of Florida, and yet another said he was heading for his Palm Island Home in Florida. So perhaps he was headed to court to fight the legality of his having been barred or banned from the state of Florida. As for the reports of his having been escorted from our town was so he could attend court in another city/state [we don't have information as to where the court was or for what charge. We do know he was banned from going to the state of Florida.]
It was explained to the family member of Patrolman Frank Warns that perhaps his great grandfather was part of that escort/transport. [He had asked about a photo, but the phrasing made it unclear as to whether he had the photo and was asking if it was true it once hung in a district, or if he was asking if a picture ever hung in the station, and if so did we have the picture. Our response was as folllows] As for the picture, I have not seen nor heard of it; I don't know if you were asking so you could get a copy, or share a copy. If you have a copy, I would love to share the story on the site and add the pic. I will post the story either way and thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Transport and Escorts are different, one we put them in our car/wagon, etc. the other we follow, lead or follow and lead them to a location, typically a city/county line where someone will take over the escort. Apparently, Al Capone was ill and living in Baltimore with some relatives, while here he was seeing a doctor at Union Memorial Hospital when that he had been plagued with, and when healthy enough to leave he was escorted out of town. But as far as I can see he was not arrested, or charged with any crimes in Baltimore. At the time he [Al Capone] was not wanted anywhere but was apparently facing some legal trouble.
As for Capone and Chicago, some say during the heyday of organized crime, and prohibition [1920 – 1933] some dirty cops, judges, etc. made it hard for other jurisdictions to get to him. That was a very different time in our countries history and was a black eye on Chicago's judicial system, or so it is rumored to have been through news articles, books, and documentaries.
We wish we had the entire story, while we are not 100% sure on the pic, we're leaning toward you're not having it. Again; we don't show any arrests on Capone in Baltimore, but we know he did stay in Baltimore for a few months. As we said earlier, it was reported that he was staying at, 5708 Pimlico Rd, Baltimore, MD 21209 with his brother and other family members. He stayed there from 16 November 1939 until his escort out of Baltimore on the night 20 March 1940. He left Baltimore with his brother so that he could attend court in another city. Perhaps your great grandfather was part of that escort. As for the picture, I have not seen nor heard of it; I don't know if you were asking so you could get a copy, or share a copy. If you have a copy, I would love to share the story on the site and add the pic (I will post the story either way and thank you for bringing it to my attention. Transport and Escorts are different, one we put them in our car/wagon the other we follow, lead or follow and lead them to a location. Apparently, Al Capone was ill and living in Baltimore with some relatives of his, while here he was seeing a doctor for an illness that he had been plagued with, and when healthy enough to leave he was escorted out of town. But as far as I can see he was not arrested, or charged with any crimes in Baltimore. At the time he was not wanted anywhere. It was reported at the time that in Chicago the system was as dirty as a pig pen, police judges, etc. we have no information on the validity of those reports so we should take them with a grain of salt. Anyway, he was not arrested or wanted too much there, and when arrested he was let back out pretty fast. Some say he was out before the arresting officer. That said it is not true that the officer or his family would have been killed or harmed, there is not much that will change the way police treat anyone more effective than to kill or bring harm to their brethren or the family of that brother as our families are an extension of the brotherhood. The only way to break a brotherhood is to tarnish the badge. We might not get along, we might not see eye to eye, but as long as an officer doesn't break the law, he is a brother. The second a brother crosses a line, breaking any laws they are no longer on this side of the law and are looked at and treated like any other criminal, perhaps even worse, because they violated more than the law, they violated our trust. Back to Capone and Chicago, they also made it hard for other jurisdictions to get to him by arresting him when he wanted by other departments holding him long enough to prevent their getting to him, and just made it hard to help find him. At the time it was not all police, but it was enough police, lawyers, and judges in Chicago. That was a very different time in our countries history and was a black eye on Chicago's police history. Anyway, I will try to find that address. I wish we had the story, while I am not 100% sure on the pic, I am leaning toward you're not having it.
Anyway, I thank you for your question; it was one of the more interesting questions I have received lately. I had not known about his [Capone] having been in Baltimore. It is an interesting fact that in the 1920's and 1930's Baltimore was resisting gangs (Mafia mobster type gangs) coming to Baltimore. It was the main reason for the start of our, "Vice squad/unit" in 1938. (You can find this information in our Time line on the home page under the 1900/200 tab.) While it was introduced as a unit to reduce STD/STI's [sexually transmitted disease or infection] due to prostitution, and that may have been a lingering part of it, as was the prostitution. But the actual reason was with prostitution comes, Mafioso type mobsters and Mafioso type crimes. We started to see evidence of that here in Baltimore, with bar/nightclub bombings one on the east side, and another on the west side both within a short time. We had a city government at the time wanting to put a stop to it without letting the public know we had a potential problem. For that reason, they came up with the idea of a vice squad. There is an interesting downside to their cover story, while it [Prostitution] is a crime and has some sickening/sad downsides, some say prostitution is a victimless crime. That, of course, is willing not involuntary trafficking for sex. So, many officers felt they were not fighting an honorable crime fight, so getting good police at the time was not easy.
For those that think it could be some sort of conspiracy theory we have to look at what Vice investigates (Prostitution and Gambling) while prostitution spreads STD/STIs killing people and gambling often spreads "lead" poisoning; also killing people, making it a real health scare. The actual problem was; where there were hookers and gambling, there was money, and where there was that much lucrative money we had a potential for gangsters. That all said, it was interesting that in the times of Al Capone and Gangsters in America, at a time when our department found a need to form it;s own Vice Squad, the king of American Mobsters Al Scar Face Capone himself was in Baltimore. Was he as truthful about his illness as our department was the reason for the formation of our department's first Vice Squad, or was he actually here, to try to form a branch of his criminal enterprise in our great Baltimore City? Might we have prevented him from doing so by watching him so close, and might the actions of your great grandfather escorting him from our city prevented Baltimore from being one of the cities most known for Gangster Mafia crimes of the 1920's and 30's? We don't know for sure, but what we do know is Baltimore was not on the list of USA cities known for mobsters.
That list consists of - Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Galveston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Tampa, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. 24 cities and Baltimore is not on the list. So as hard as it was to get good police on the original Vice Squad, they got the best they could, and those men defended our city from some of the toughest mobsters in history, and that is something that can not be denied.
With that, my hat is off to your grandfather. As we all know, the stories we hear are changed over the years; but they started somewhere, and they started with a grain of truth. Your family has told a story that was not widely known of throughout the agency a story of Scar Face living in Baltimore and being Transported not arrested.
On investigation/research, we found Al Capone was in Baltimore at the time and was escorted/transported out of the city. We suggest the writer should be proud, as his great grandfather more than escorted Al Scarface Capone, out of Baltimore but with it, he may have been a big part in helping to rid or prevent the city from being added to the list of cities that have mobsters. As he, [Patrolman Warns] helped send a message that Al Capone or his type would not be welcomed in the city of Baltimore. Therefore keeping our name off that long list of cities that could not fend off organized crime.
God bless Patrolman Warns and may he rest in peace,
Al Capone, former Chicago underworld character, who has been under treatment by Baltimore physicians since November 16, has left Baltimore, it was learned last night. Neighbors of the house at 5708 Pimlico road, where Capone and his family had been living since his release from Union Memorial Hospital in January, said that Capone and one brother had left in an automobile Tuesday and the rest of the family yesterday.Last night his house was dark. It was presumed that the former gang leader Who served eight years in Federal institutions !or income tax violations and misdemeanor charges had left for his Palm Island home in Florida.
Came Here From PenitentiaryCapone first came to Baltimore and Union Memorial Hospital the day after his release, at the Federal Penitentiary Lewisburg, Pa., for the treatment of paresis and Syphilis. Apparently, his departure took his physicians by surprise, although initially he had been slated to leave anytime after the middle of the month. Dr. Joseph E. Moore, one of those who treated him during his stay here, said last night that, as far as he knew Capone was still in Baltimore. Less than a week ago members of Capone's family had said that they would be in Baltimore for over three weeks.However, neighbors reported that they had seen Capone and another leave the house about, 7 AM. Tuesday, a short time after a dust-covered automobile had driven up to the door.This car as well as the one which the Capone family had used while here, was seen leaving with two occupants. His landlord Declined To Comment.Activity around the house continued yesterday, and other members of the household were said to have left at different times during the day by taxi. The landlord refused to comment on whether the family had left Capone entered the hospital under an assumed name and was placed under the care of Dr. Moore. Members of his family, who had not been present when he was released from the penitentiary under armed guard joined him here. He spent nearly two months not the hospital before moving to the house on Pimlico road, where he continued under the care of Dr. Moore and Dr. Manfred S. Guttmacher.
Neighbors Unaware Of activity Capone's removal was so quiet and his family so unobtrusive that neighbors and, the family who lived on the third floor of the house into which he moved were unaware that the former gangster had entered the neighborhood.
He and his family went under the name Rossi at that time. At the hospital here Capone had been Mr. Martini. While neither the physicians nor his brother John, who has been handling his affairs, would discuss the treatment he was undergoing they said that it would be a year before Capone could take up any business affairs, if he were ever able to do so again. Neighbors reported that Capone his wife mother and another brother, Albert lived very quietly. Capone who was well enough when he left the hospital to take short walks, was said never to have gone outside the house during the day. His Weight Down to 165 According to his family Capone, more than six feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds when he entered.
A Gift from a Gangster
In November of 1939, Al Capone was released from nearly eight years federal custody in Alcatraz for tax evasion. Capone traveled to Baltimore for treatment of paresis -produced by widespread brain damage from syphilis - Having concerns for the safety of other patients Johns Hopkins Hospital refused to admit him. As a compromise, he was treated at Union Memorial Hospital, where many the same doctors from Hopkins doctors had admitting privileges. In fact, his doctor at the time was Dr. Moore who had offices at both hospitals.
While at Union Memorial, Capone took over the entire fifth floor. He feared that his enemies would strike and might make an attempt to poison his food. To resist that he brought with him a food taster (some say it was his brother) he tasted all of his food during his five-week stay. His entourage also included bodyguards, his barber, a masseur and various family members. After his release from Union Memorial, Capone spent several months recuperating at the Pamlico Rd, address before returning to his Florida villa during the night of March 20, 1940.
To show his gratitude for the hospitals care, Capone gave the hospital two weeping cherry trees. One of the trees was removed the early 1950s to make room for a new hospital wing. In February of 2010, the second tree was split in two from a fallen branch due to heavy snow that winter. An artist turned several bowls, made small wooden boxes, wine stoppers, pens and other things that were eventually sold on eBay in 2012 to raise funds for the hospital. All of the younger cherry trees on Union Memorial’s campus are offspring cultured from Capone’s original gifted trees.
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