Monday, April 11, 2016

The Beat Goes On

Just when I perhaps had written my last Kitty Genovese-themed blog posting, along comes an alert reader, who visibly admits to being a follower, who linked me to the blurb written by Sarah Weinman,

I'm always amazed by what this alert reader absorbs. It seems nearly all printed text, paper and online, comes to their attention, often producing a Tweet alerting the others out there. The alert reader however doesn't admit to reading the WSJ, but an alert reader can understandably only do so much.

Sarah Weinman, whose Twitter profile  and photo shows her to be a young woman with soft features and an alert gaze, who describes herself as a New York-based "Crime Lady, Editor," writes of a trip she's making across the pond. She's been asked by The Guardian to write a piece on the "bystander effect." The interest has of course been resuscitated by the death of Kitty's killer, William Moseley who just passed  away at 81, making him one of the oldest New York state prisoners. He's been in jail ever since being convicted in the 1964 vicious murder and rape of Miss Genovese.

Ms. Weinman's blurb is short, makes reference to the social researchers who coined the phrase "bystander effect" and adds that she's "looking forward The Witness, the forthcoming documentary about Genovese's younger brother Bill and how he investigated the awful story at the heart of his family.

Sarah is certainly not old enough to have experienced first hand the news and the infamy that came of out of the case. I don't know if Sarah knows that Kitty was the niece of Vito Genovese, a true Godfather in NYC at the time. I was always struck by the fact that Winston Moseley wasn't himself murdered in prison, like Jeffrey Dahmer. The "family" has a way of exacting revenge from all quarters.

The "bystander effect" these days would include anyone who sees something and takes out their cell phone to video record the event. The cell phone video is the now the first line of action.

Not all bystanders are in a position to prevent anything, or even in some way mitigate what's happening. One of my managers in the Fraud Division at Empire told me of the story that he and his buddies, about 8 or 10 years old, were playing in a park in Brooklyn when he'll never forget the two guys who walked right up to the guy across the street sitting in his beach chair and blasted him. A mob hit. His mother didn't let him out for a week after that.

Certainly, nothing those kids could have done. Interestingly enough, Tom's father was a NYC detective who at one point was detailed to follow Albert Anastasia, another crime boss of the era, around.

Well, the police attention didn't prevent Albert, who was getting a shave at the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, from being blasted away by gunmen who came into the barber shop. Another mob hit. Tom me he would carefully tease his dad about the "good job" he did that day paying attention.

The Kitty Genovese story has stronger legs than the Bernie Goetz story, the so-called "subway vigilante" who, fearing an imminent mugging, shot one of his would-be attackers and then fled. Goetz would later surrender after fleeing to New Hampshire, and would eventually serve a little time for the gun possession. The moral debate generated by his actions were newspaper and talk show fodder for a good while.

As a kid growing up I was aware of a code, so to speak, to not get involved. Of course this was a parental warning to help insure safety. The city in the 50s was no more dangerous than it is today. But everyone always remembers when it does become dangerous.

My own take on the bystander effect, and what might have been going on in the few people's minds who did hear or see something when Miss Genovese was being savaged, was that there might have been memory of Arnold Schuster, the young man who in 1952 fingered Willie Sutton in the subway. Mr. Schuster's actions eventually earned him a small reward, then eternal rest.

The story developed that the crime boss, Albert Anastasia, didn't like hearing that a member of the fraternity had been ratted out. Now Mr. Schuster was a young man in Brooklyn who worked in his father's dry cleaning store. In the store they had a police photo/sketch of Willie. the famous bank robber who at the time had gone missing from prison, a successful escape, that led to years of evasion. Somewhat like Whitey Bulger, without the prison break.

Arnold Schuster had Willie's photo in the back of the store and was always looking at it as he pressed clothes. When he looked up on the subway and spotted Willie, who would try and disguise himself from time-to-time, it was only a matter of  following him out of the subway and getting the attention of what seemed like reluctant police.

Schuster was hero, of sorts, but not to all people. The news accounts at the time would give someone's address, so his home address was included in the story. One early evening he was approached by a gunman who left him dead on the sidewalk in front of his apartment house. The hit was supposedly ordered by Albert Anastasia. Mr. Schuster was 25. No good deed goes unpunished.

A little further digging into Ms. Weinman website shows that she's edited a volume of stories, "Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s." I think I remember mention of it in the WSJ.

I don't know if Ms. Weinman tries to solve crimes, but in absolute true Onofframp, Mobius Strip fashion--one thing leading to another-I was recently looking for places on L.I. that might sell boulders to be used for garden landscaping. Look and ye shall find.

Found one. Skyview, in King's Park, not too far from where I now live. A veritable pumpkin farm of stones to romp around in and consider. Fifty cents a pound when under a ton. A trip is planned soon.

On the left hand panel of website sections to be further directed to is one titled, "Help Solve This Crime Scene." Am I headed for dinner/mystery theater on the rocks? No.

A click reveals the owner of the rock pile asking for help in finding the killer of his 19 year-old niece Holly Moore in Castle Rock, Colorado. She was murdered November 15, 2015.

The beat goes on.

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