The best books on crime and criminal justice

Wes Denham
By Wes Denham

The Books I Picked & Why

The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free

By Jack Maple, Chris Mitchell

The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free

Why this book?

Maple was the architect of the tactics that allowed the NYPD to lower homicides by 60% in two miraculous years from 1990–1992. This book is easy to read and often funny, which doesn’t obscure Maple’s tactical genius. The story of how a lowly transit cop who fancied suits, vests, bow ties, and homburgs became Assistant Commissioner of Police in New York is astonishing. You can only regret that Maple was never able to use his fake “Gun-Sniffing Dog” ploy to flush suspects with concealed firearms. It was sheer genius.


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The Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic

By William Bratton, Peter Knobler

The Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic

Why this book?

This book describes the harum-scarum changes to the NYPD that made possible an astonishing reduction in crime and homicide in a city in the midst of the crack cocaine wars. When Bratton began promoting hotshot cops on merit rather than seniority, half the senior commanders retired in horror. The result? A lot of fat ex-cops retired to Florida and the renaissance of New York City.


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Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities

By John F. Timoney

Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities

Why this book?

As chief of the Philadelphia Police Department, Timoney ended the notorious practice of “juking” crime statistics to soothe politicians. For example, if you want to lower the murder rate, just book the killers on “manslaughter! This book is by the third of brilliant cops who reformed the NYPD. Compare what they did in 1990 to the current misrule and chaos in the Big Apple and I can truly say to you, “Read it and weep!”


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Collaborate or Perish!: Reaching Across Boundaries in a Networked World

By William Bratton, Zachary Tumin

Collaborate or Perish!: Reaching Across Boundaries in a Networked World

Why this book?

Bill Bratton had the original insight that crime is a city problem, not just a cop problem. In this book, he discusses how collaboration between city, state, and federal agencies is essential to reduce murder and violent felonies. How easy is it to get government agencies to cooperate? Like herding cats, you say? More like herding rabid lions and tigers. You’re dealing with bureaucrats who imbibed the subtleties of the double and triple cross with their mothers’ milk!


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The Valachi Papers

By Peter Maas

The Valachi Papers

Why this book?

This book, published in 1968, is based on the prison memoirs of Joe Valachi, a mob button who was the first made man to rat out the Genovese crime family. Valachi’s testimony before a U.S. Senate committee created a sensation. He revealed publicly, and for the first time, the Italian mob’s structure, rituals, membership, and business practices.

What struck me on reading this book was how inept the mob was in its criminal enterprises. Their success was based solely on their willingness to kill whoever got in their way. For bozos who didn’t pay, it was two in the heart and one in the head. Account closed!


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