The Italian Squad

How the NYPD Took Down the Black Hand Extortion Racket

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About the Book

At the turn of the twentieth century, thousands of Italian immigrants left their home country for the United States and, particularly, New York City. A small minority of the immigrants were members of a criminal syndicate that largely victimized fellow immigrants. The most common crime was a type of extortion known as “Black Hand.” The methods of extortion were particularly violent, and included kidnapping, arson, and murder. The New York Police Department, unable to speak the language and unaware of the traditions of the immigrants, was virtually helpless in dealing with them. In 1904, Italian-American Lt. Detective Joseph Petrosino formed a group of Italian detectives to deal exclusively with the extortion crimes and the criminal underworld of Italian society in New York which had become known in the American press as “The Black Hand Society.” This book tells the story of The Italian Squad from its inception, through Petrosino’s death, to the squad’s expansion into Queens and Brooklyn.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Paul Mele is retired from the Brooklyn Public Library. The author of six books and several short stories, his articles appear in the Staten Island Advance and the Italian Tribune. He lives in Staten Island.

Bibliographic Details

Andrew Paul Mele
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7905-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3876-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface  1
One—Arrival, Assimilation, Acceptance  5
Two—The Black Hand Society—“La Mano Nera”  19
Three—The Italian Squad—NYPD  36
Four—The Italian Sherlock Holmes  51
Five—The Mission  67
Six—A Death in Sicily  82
Seven—Enter the Great Caruso  97
Eight—Caruso and the Black Hand  111
Nine—The Terror of Evildoers  127
Ten—The Brothers Mealli  142
Eleven—The Mafia-Camorra War  156
Twelve—The Italian Squad: Redux  171
Chapter Notes  189
Bibliography  193
Index  195