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Informant Deafy Price

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding his career in the New York City Police Department and his travels and adventures during retirement beginning in January 1905.

Informant Deafy Price

When I was first appointed there was a dance hall of questionable reputation on the south side of Prince Street between Greene and Mercer Streets, kept by a peculiar and notorious crook known as “Deafy Price” who was the most versatile all round thief I ever knew. I came to know him quite well as his place required considerable attention. The hall was soon closed and for several years I used to see Deafy standing in front of Alderman Joe Welling’s liquor store on the corner of Houston and Sullivan Streets as I passed there from time to time.

One afternoon about 1885 I went over the Chamber Street ferry to see an uncle and aunt off on the Erie on their way home. As I was getting on a Belt Line car on my way home I felt my watch being lifted from the fob pocket of my trousers. I grabbed the hand attached to the watch and discovered that it belonged to Deafy. He started to apologize when I said, “Deafy you get off and work the next car, I will work this.” He got off.

Several months after the above mentioned event I met Deafy on Broadway when he thanked me for overlooking his former indiscretion and said he would be pleased to help me solve any criminal mystery that I had to work out from time to time and directed me where to write so that he would not be known as my “stool.” He was of great service to me in many important cases, obtaining information I would not have been able to obtain otherwise. He was said to be so expert as a pickpocket that he taught novices or new beginners his art.

I met Deafy after not having seen him for some years and when I asked him who he was doing now he said, in a joking way, that he was working a large department store that had recently opened. This store had a very opinionated detective whom I wished to try out. When I said to Deafy that I had my doubts of his being able to shop lift anything from there he said, “You get a sample of goods from there, send me that sample and I will send to you at your station the piece of goods it is cut from.” I went to the store, selected a sample of very small black and white checked silk which was very fashionable at the time and sent this to Deafy.

About a week later the piece of silk was left at my station. I sent for my friend the detective and when he called said to him “Your store is being worked by shoplifters.” He insisted that it was impossible. I then told him what had occurred, he insisted that my informant must have purchased the goods. We cut a sample from the piece and went to the store. I went to the silk counter at which time he came from the opposite direction. I gave the saleslady my sample, requesting to know if she could match it. She said, “Yes,” and commenced searching and after some time remarked, “I am quite sure it has not been sold,” which was a fact. I believe the effect of this escapade was beneficial as it caused the detective to get busy and Deafy some time after informed me that he had been compelled to seek new fields for his efforts.

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