||New York| Joseph Petrosino
Birth: August 30, 1860 - Padula, Italy
Death: March 12, 1909 - Palermo, Sicily
Giuseppe "Joe" Petrosino was an NYCPD officer who was a pioneer in the fight against organized crime. The various crime fighting techniques that Petrosino pioneered during his law enforcement career are still practiced by various agencies in the fight against crime.
In 1874, Petrosino and his family emigrated to the United States from Padula (in the province of Salerno, Campania), a village in southern Italy. On 1883-10-19, he joined the NYCPD. During his service, he would become friends with Theodore Roosevelt, who was police commissioner of New York City at the time. On 1895-07-20, Roosevelt promoted him to Detective Sergeant in charge of the department's Homicide Division, making him the first Italian-American to lead this division. During the summer of 1906 Petrosino received an official letter from Naples, Italy, concerning a main Camorra member who had fled Naples to avoid murder charges. That man was Enrico Alfano. Shortly after Petrosino received letters which indeed confirmed that Alfano was living in New York and was in fact the Camorra leader in America. In 1907 Petrosino and his agents, Bonanno, Di Guida, Covone, Archiopoli and Miceli raided the appartment were Alfano was living. During the raid they arrested him and shortly after Alfano was sent back to Italy on a French boat. In both America and Italy, Alfano had put a price on the head of Petrosino.
One year later, in December of 1908, Petrosino was promoted to Lieutenant and placed in charge of the Italian Squad, an elite corps of Italian-American detectives specifically assembled to deal with the criminal activities of organizations like the Mafia, which Petrosino saw as a shame to decent Italians and his native country.
The Black Hand & Enrico Caruso
Another notable case in Petrosino's stint with the Italian Squad was when the famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873 - 1921), who was performing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, was being blackmailed by gangsters who demanded money in exchange for his life. It was Petrosino who convinced Caruso to help him catch those behind the blackmail.
Assassination of William McKinley
A third notable case in Petrosino's stint with the Italian Squad was his infiltration of an Italian-based anarchist organization that assassinated King Umberto I (1844 - 1900) of Italy. During his mission, he discovered evidence that the organization intended to assassinate President William McKinley (1843 - 1901) during his trip to Buffalo. Petrosino warned the Secret Service, but McKinley ignored the warning, even after Roosevelt, who had by this time become Vice-President of the United States, vouched for Petrosino's abilities. As a result, McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz during his visit to Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition on September 6, 1901.
Arrest of the Don
Petrosino's investigations into Mafia activities led him to Don Vito Cascio Ferro, the godfather of the Mafia. In 1903, Petrosino arrested him on suspicion of murder, but Cascio Ferro was acquitted. He later returned to Sicily, where grew to become a very influencial and respected boss. In 1909, Petrosino made plans to travel to Palermo, Sicily, on a top secret mission. However, because of the incompetence of Thomas Bingham, New York's police commissioner, the New York Herald published the story of Petrosino's mission on February 20, 1909, just days before his departure. Even though he was aware of the danger, Petrosino headed to Palermo as planned. However, this decision would prove fatal.
On March 12, 1909, after arriving in Palermo, Petrosino received a message from someone claiming to be an informant, asking the detective to meet him in the city's Piazza Marina to give him information about the Mafia. Petrosino arrived at the rendezvous, but it was a trap. While waiting for his 'informant,' Petrosino was shot to death by Mafia assassins. Vito Cascio Ferro was arrested for Petrosino's murder but was released after an associate provided an alibi. Another man arrested was Carlo Constantino, an associate of Cascio Ferro and Peter Morello, the boss of bosses in America who was recently arrested. Constantino was also released from prison. However, it is possible that the murder on Petrosino was not committed by the mafia, but by members of the Camorra in order of the imprissoned Enrico Alfano. In November, 1910, Alfano was trialed for the murder of an Italian couple, but was also believed to have ordered the murder on Joseph Petrosino.
On April 12, 1909, Petrosino's funeral, which was attended by 250,000 people, was held in Manhattan. New York City declared the day of his burial a holiday to allow its citizens to pay their respects. A small plaza just north of the old NYPD Headquarters at 240 Center Street in Manhattan was renamed in his memory.
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