Saturday 4 August 2012

#OBSummer #Books - Ford 99 - Bronx DA: Bronx D.A.: True Stories from the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes Unit

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Genre - True Crime 
Rating - PG13
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There is some kind of amazing karma about me discussing page 99 of my book, because page 99 is about the first kid on a milk carton, Etan Patz, and Patz’s 33 year old murder case was just reopened a month ago when a man named Pedro Hernandez confessed to murdering Patz.

To take a step back, Bronx DA:  True Stories from the Sex Crimes and Domestic Violence Unit is a true crime memoire about my experience as a prosecutor.  The book is structured roughly chronologically and each chapter focuses on a different, pivotal case in my career.  Each case then relates to something else relevant to the law or the borough or to my life and how I became a prosecutor.  

Page 99 is the second page of chapter 6, which is about the first felony trial I did, a domestic violence case featuring some very colorful and quintessential Bronx characters.   It’s one of many cases I had that was as funny as it was sad.  But I begin the chapter by talking about the contrast between my parents’ childhoods, my childhood and the environment in the Bronx in 1997. 

My parents both grew up in New York City – mostly Brooklyn and Queens,  yet they were raised in a place where you could send your kids out on the streets to play unsupervised with little fear that something terrible would happen to them.  Somehow, all of that changed in 1979, the year my family moved from Boston to New York and the year Etan Patz disappeared on his way to a bus stop in Soho.  Page 98 ends with the story of my brother and I watching an episode of “The Hulk” on TV and wondering what kind of crazy place New York City was when no one turned to look at the giant green man running barefoot down the middle of Park Avenue.    We learned just how crazy, and terrifying, it was when we heard about Etan Patz’s disappearance.

“Shortly before my family moved to New York that year, everything changed for us children.  A little boy named Etan Patz disappeared one day on his way to school and was never seen again.”  I continue by discussing some of the details of the case – how quickly a search was mobilized encompassing all of lower Manhattan, by boat and by water.  Toll free phone numbers were set up, posters were hung.  “He was just six years old, just a couple of years younger than me.  He was someone I could have known.  It could have been me.”  Etan became the first missing child to be featured on a milk carton and he was the start of our focusing attention on child abduction and creating plans to address it.

Bronx DA could have been a hopeless book.  I talk about tragedy and heartbreak, rape and murder.  Worst of all, most of my cases involved crimes against children – these are hard things to hear about.  But it was critical to me in writing this book that people see the hopeful side of the story.  The dedication of the people in law enforcement, the great work and progress that can arise from tragedy.  It’s not that no one was taking kids prior to 1979, it’s just that no one was talking about it.  Etan Patz’s parents did not allow that to continue after their son died.  This book is not just about the cases I prosecuted.  Fundamentally, the book is also about hope and prevention and trying to stop crimes before they happen.  Page 99 is really the core of Bronx DA.  It’s about the Phoenix that rises from the ashes of a tragedy when people decide to never let something happen again.  And hopefully it’s about how people can create change for the better without first having to face tragedy.

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