Organized Crime in New York City, Or: A Microcosm of US Foreign Policy
I cannot claim to have had any more than cursory experience with the various crime organizations in New York, but I would like to record this conversation, however imperfectly, with a someone who claimed to be prominent member of one.
“See that guy over there? He’s a worker.
(He indicates a crumpled-looking person with narrow, watery eyes)
He makes the deliveries. So if someone calls him up, says “Hey, I need a nickel, I need a dime”, he’s the one that answers the phone and gets it to them. Any problems – junkies, cops, whatever – he’s the one’s gotta deal with it. I don’t pay the cops to leave mu guys alone. I know some people who do, but its a bad idea. They leave you alone at first, then they keep comin’ for money. And when you don’t got it, they bust your ass. If you’re sharp, if you know what you’re doing, you should be havin’ problems anyway.
It’s hard to find good workers. Some you trust, some you don’t. You get these guys: they’re honest, lived in the ‘hood all their lives, can’t get a job, just tryin’ to make some cash. And then there are the junkies – the motherfuckers think I’m handin’ them a free fix. (He darkens.) You gotta teach those ones a lesson. But most workers I give 15% of the profit from what they move. Then I take twenty, and the rest goes to the importers. The ones you trust, you can give them more at a time, let them eat a little better.
So coke, then – I get the stuff pure for say, $32 per gram. Then I resell it to that guy over there for $40 Then he does whatever, cuts it, puts shit in it, you know, and sells it again for $45. Then that guy sells it to is a user, who might sell some to tourists in Manhattan. Shit, they’ll pay whatever.
I don’t fuck around with weed. It’s too bokey. Bokey – you know – uh… hard to conceal. It smells, and you can’t carry it around in bulk. There’s a bigger clientele, but you gotta be turnin’ over pounds. The penantlies are lower, but you have a much, much bigger chance of getting caught. Shit, catchin’ dumb kids with weed is like a national sport for the cops. Then they rat your ass out. It ain’t worth it.
My position’s pretty good. I don’t have to carry the shit on me; I just know some good suppliers. So I can just make the deal, bring supply to demand, and make a nice cut on the side. I make $8 per gram – so if I sell this guy 250 grams, I just made two G’s. But you gotta know a lot of people. They gotta respect you, fear you even. People can’t think they can fuck with you – they gotta be afraid.
I always tell people – I can be the nicest guy in the world, but don’t fuck up, don’t make me show the other side. It’s like the lion in the jungle – why is the lion king of the jungle? (He indicates his bicep.) It’s because of this. Most of these guys… I mean look, this is my block, but somebody wants to eat, I’m not gonna prevent from eating. But they gotta go through me.
Sometimes you get tough. I been lookin’ for this one guy all day. He fucked up my money. I told him, right from the beginning: I’ll let you make money on this block, I’ll let you eat – but don’t fuck up my money. But that’s exactly what he did! The junkie,he used all the shit I gave him. I said: here’s 300 dollars worth. Sell it, take a percentage, give me the rest.
But he don’t want to play that – motherfucker uses it all, comes back sayin’ “I don’t have your money, I don’t have your money” Fuck that. People like him, they’re just looking for their next fix. They don’t ever think about the future, they never plan for it. Totally passive; just take the future as it comes. He probably ain’t even worried about the beating I’m ’bout to give him.
(I express shock.)
Oh hell yeah, I’m gonna whip his fucking ass. You don’t fuck with my money. It isn’t even the $300 – I could give two shits about that. I get thousands a day. It’s the principal. You don’t fuck with another man’s money. And shit, who knows? He fucks with me, nothing happens, maybe other people think they can do the same thing.
So what I’m gonna do – I got this pool cue. I’m gonna break his fucking hands. When he puts them up to defend himself. I got the bottom half; it screws off – it’s not gonna break. His hands will.
I ain’t gonna kill him. But you can be sure his ass is gonna land in a hospital. Shit, maybe they clean him up.
You gotta show people, y’know? They see I fucked this guy up, maybe they think twice before messing with me.
(I compare his method with the US justifications for going to war in Southeast Asia: The “Domino Theory”, etc.)
I don’t know nothin’ about that. All I know is when you let one person fuck with you, suddenly they all are. I gotta protect my interests.”
(I note the irony).
Side conversation: Musing on the changes that have taken place in his lifetime.
(He expresses nostalgia for the early ’80s)
“Yeah, I’d say the city’s safer overall than it was back then. More people are working, less violent crime. I mean it happens all the time, but it isn’t as open. Shit, I remember back when me and my buddies had straps, vests – we’d walk around just carryin’ our shit. You can’t do that anymore. I still got my bulletproof vest and my nine [millimeter pistol], but those are in a safe place – only for when I need ’em.
They got cameras and microphones now. You fire a gunshot in this neighborhood, they got mikes to pick up exactly where it came from and dispatch a squad. No one’s even gotta call anymore. And everyone always snitches. The penalties have gone way up – now if anyone hears about a gun, someone’s always tellin’.
Oh, shit happens. Just the other day guy was shot two blocks over. But you can’t shoot people on the street anymore. Before, we’d be battling in the streets, at least you could see the fucker shooting you. Now you get shot in the back.
And the hustlin’, man. That’s changed for sure. Back then, there’d be someone selling on every street corner. Two, even. The cops would just roll right by. Now people hustle on their cell phone. You come down this street looking for something, you could pass 10 drug dealers and they wouldn’t sell you shit. They don’t know you, they don’t sell to you. Everyone’s afraid of selling to a cop.
That’s where the cell phone comes in. You know this guy, you trust him, you give him your cell number. You tell him: don’t give it out to anybody you don’t trust. And of course he doesn’t want to fuck up, so he’s gonna be careful. It’s gotten more sophisticated. You can’t just sell to whoever you want anymore.
What’s the cause? People snitchin’! There’s no honor, no loyalty. Used to be you didn’t dare open your mouth to the police. You had dignity. Now you got people snitchin’ left and right. I guess the new generation is fuckin’ up. The penalties are way higher now. Before, you get caught you do a one year, two year bid. But now it’s five. You get these junkies, they don’t to go away for that long, be away from their fix – so they’ll sell out whoever. Shit, those fuckers would sell out their own mother.
There’s a lot more money in the city now. Everything costs way more. Drugs included. And shit – even if you want to live in this shitty-ass neighborhood, unless you on section 8, you’re paying $1200 for a one-bedroom.
(Section 8 is the popular name for New York City’s rent stabilization program)
It’s getting to be that you can’t even afford to live here anymore. This whole block’s Section 8. If it weren’t for that we’d have a whole lot more homeless people.
Yeah, I guess it’s gotten better. You can walk around without worrying about getting caught by a random bullet. You can raise your kids here. But shit, people ain’t eating any better. You still got people living paycheck to paycheck. It’s still tough to survive. So where’s the progress?”