An English-American journalist penned a book about how the crack epidemic had rattled a Bronx community two decades ago.
Award-winning journalist Jonathan Green chronicles an unfortunate era in the borough’s past: the crack epidemic and its impact on the Soundview community in the 1980s and 1990s in his new book ‘Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal’.
The 384-page true crime story follows four characters through a dramatic and troubling period when crack cocaine ran rampant in the Soundview Houses and the police and federal authorities sought to bring down members of the Sex Money Murder gang.
Two of the people chronicled in the book are gang members Pipe and Suge, who were ultimately taken down by federal law enforcement after a vicious killing in broad daylight of someone suspected of cooperating with cops in 1997.
The book is also notable because it also contains the story from the perspective of law enforcement in the persons of Detective Pete Forcelli, a young crime fighter who worked during this period with a small, specialized group of detectives based out of a converted closet in the 45th Precinct and John O’Malley, a federal law enforcement official who grew up in Soundview but left the community as crime and disorder engulfed it.
“It was important for me that we have both sides of the story,” said Green, adding that while O’Malley and Forcelli wanted to tell the story, they were reserved and it took some time to convince everyone to get on board with the book, which took five to six years to complete.
A key incident in the narrative was a murder at a football game on Thanksgiving Day that opens the book and turns out later on, after an exhaustive telling of the origins of the crack epidemic and the four subjects, to be the downfall of gang’s reign of terror.
Gunfire was sprayed into a crowd of players and onlookers from Soundview and Castle Hill houses during a holiday football game, which was normally a time of calm, thus leading to an uproar in the community that finally broke the ‘code of silence’.
After the incident, individuals that attended the event approached the 43rd Precinct, offering them bits and pieces of information about the shooters, the book relates.
Locales in and around Soundview are mentioned in the book, including Throggs Neck and Country Club, which are recalled as places where respect for the law remained relatively intact during this period, and Clason Point, where O’Malley grew up.
City Island, a favorite restaurant haunt for one gang member, and Co-op City, a relatively safe-haven, are also mentioned.
Even today, people continue to be fearful of speaking about the gang in Soundview, Green said, illustrating the type of impact they had on instilling fear as they participating in a trade that made them tens of thousands of dollars a month.
The book is published by W.W. Norton.