The Crime Fighter: Putting the Bad Guys Out of Business

ISBN 10: 0385493630 / ISBN 13: 9780385493635
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Synopsis: Why the crooks are on the run...and how to keep them running.

The number one strategist in the war against crime is a colorful dandy with an attitude, a fixture on the celebrity scene at Elaine's restaurant, and, worst of all in the eyes of his critics, a former lieutenant in the despised New York City Transit Force--a subway cop who wears spectator shoes, bow ties and a homburg, and drinks champagne on ice.

But former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple was also an extraordinarily tough and brilliant cop, who rose through the ranks by being relentless, fearless and clever. As a young officer, he constantly got in trouble for making too many arrests (too much paperwork, said the bosses), and as a transit detective he pioneered the fabled decoy squad that drove criminals out of the subways in the 1980s. Most important, Maple had ideas--ideas that would transform New York City, then other cities, and change the way people think about crime.

Maple knew from his twenty years on the force that stopping crime was not a priority of the police--unbelievable but true. Crooks worked nights and weekends, but the cops didn't want to. Vast areas of the city were written off by the police--because they thought they were lost forever. Too bad about the citizens who lived there.

Maple was determined to revolutionize the way crime is fought--how cops go after crooks, and how they prevent crime from happening in the first place. And he succeeded. Two years after Maple became Deputy Commissioner, the seemingly explosive crime rate was going down--fast: murder rate down 50 percent, crime down overall by 39 percent. And by 1998, the number of murders in New York City for the year was lower than in 1964. After his program was implemented in New Orleans, the violent crime rate in America's most dangerous city was cut in half between 1996 and 1999--and results were even better in Newark.

But Maple is not satisfied. In The Crime Fighter he tells the reader how crime can and should be attacked. Laced with fascinating, incredible and often humorous tales of Maple's adventures as a cop, the book is as entertaining as it is informative. Anyone interested in how criminals think and act, and how the police should do their jobs as servants of the people, not as an occupying force, will devour this absorbing book.

Review: Jack Maple was a former NYPD transit cop who found himself appointed deputy commissioner in 1993. Upon assuming his new office, the erstwhile Don Quixote of urban crime led a charge to reform the way cops go about their everyday business--namely, busting the bad guys. Amazingly, Maple succeeded, and New York's crime rate--previously spiraling out of control--took a 39 percent tumble within two years of his ascension to policymaker, with murders alone falling an astounding 50 percent.

The Crime Fighter is the story of a regular beat cop with big ideas, and Maple's fast-paced, two-fisted tone helps punctuate an often madcap assortment of recollections. Maple's an unusual character to say the least, a somewhat rotund dandy who sports a bow tie and derby in public and nurtures a reputation as a gourmand. He takes the lion's share of credit for NYC's reduction in crime, but almost in an offhand, good-sportish way, rather than incessantly beating his own drum. He'd rather tell tales about the time he chewed out the chief ("I'll be damned if I'm going to start looking over my shoulder because of a guy down here wearing Ricky Nelson suits") or the time he played up his hemorrhoid problems to goad a prisoner into making a confession. Once he gets past his active days on the beat, Maple settles down into a steady rhythm, systematically laying out the obstacles he faced in trying to get his department to fight crime in an orderly, sensible manner, and then explaining the process whereby he went right ahead and did it. (The COMSTAT system he devised for storing and tracking crime information is now standard operating procedure in many police departments across the country.) The Crime Fighter never gets bogged down in its own grandeur--on the contrary, parts of Maple's look back read like good Elmore Leonard-type crime fiction, and several passages are so beautifully absurd that it takes a supreme effort of will to remember that, yes, a cop really wrote that. --Tjames Madison

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