Republished with the permission from New York magazine.
One morning earlier this month, just before sunrise, a silent convoy of SUVs streamed into the tiny, troubled city of Newburgh, New York. Over 200 law-enforcement officers descended on the blighted heart of town, and a company of military-style commandos prepared for a synchronized raid. Armed with M4 assault rifles and dressed in helmets, goggles, and green fatigues, SWAT teams burst into a series of dilapidated houses, shouting, “FBI! Get down!”
By late morning, twelve alleged members of the Bloods street gang were in federal custody. Along with eight others who were already behind bars, the young men were charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery, assault, possession of firearms, and conspiracy to distribute drugs. It was the third major sweep by federal authorities in Newburgh over the past sixteen months. At a press conference, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that the raid was designed to “restore the rule of law” in the impoverished city, where violent street gangs “have held the good citizens of Newburgh hostage for too long.”
Beautifully situated on a picturesque bend in the Hudson about a 90 minutes’ drive north of New York City, Newburgh does not look, from a distance, like a community mired in High Noon levels of lawlessness. But in actuality, it has less in common with bohemian Beacon, just across the river (“Williamsburg on the Hudson,” as theTimes recently anointed it), than it does with, say, West Baltimore. Despite its small size and bucolic setting, Newburgh occupies one of the most dangerous four-mile stretches in the northeastern United States. “There are reports of shootouts in the town streets, strings of robberies, and gang assaults with machetes,” an alarmed Chuck Schumer said in a Senate hearing last year, describing the situation in Newburgh as “shocking.” With a higher rate of violent crime per capita than the South Bronx or Brownsville, little Newburgh, population 29,000, is the murder capital of New York State.
For two decades, American inner-city crime has been dropping. Major urban centers from Boston to Los Angeles have seen murder rates plunge, and the most dramatic transformation of all has unfolded in New York, which in recent years, in the improbable but accurate boast of Mayor Bloomberg, has become “the safest big city in the country.” Across the country, violent crime has fallen to a 31-year low, despite the economic crisis, upending the bedrock sociological correlation between tough times and higher crime.
But if our major metropolises are so safe today, how do we account for the fact that Newburgh, whose residents could comfortably transplant into any small pocket of Manhattan (and probably would, given half the chance), is struggling to cope with a deadly gang war, open-air drug markets, and citizens who are justifiably afraid to walk the streets—the very “big city” problems, in other words, that our actual big cities appear to have licked?
Nor is Newburgh an anomaly. Once-placid Poughkeepsie, another twenty miles up the Hudson, has a gang problem, too, and trails only Newburgh for violent crime in the state. The FBI estimates that a single gang, the ferocious Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, is active in the bedroom communities of Long Island as well as nearly every state. A threat assessment released in 2009 by the National Gang Intelligence Center found that gangs are “migrating” from urban areas to suburban and even rural communities. Statistics indicate that crime is dropping more quickly in our big cities than it is in their environs. One theory, which you’ll hear on the streets of Newburgh, is that New York City cleaned up crime by sweeping it into the surrounding area.
Just recently, however, things have started to look up for Newburgh. Starting with a spectacular raid in May 2010, authorities have indicted over 100 alleged members of the two dominant gangs in town, the Bloods and the Latin Kings. The drug trade has ebbed a bit, and some of Newburgh’s meanest streets are suddenly safe to walk for the first time in years. If the improvements hold, it will be owed, in large measure, to the efforts of an FBI agent named James Gagliano, the head of the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force. “Jimmy Gags is a force of nature,” says Bharara. “That guy deserves an unbelievable amount of credit.”
Gagliano was first dispatched to Newburgh in the spring of 2008, after demoralized city officials implored Albany and Washington to send reinforcements. Imposing and athletic, he has intense blue eyes and a shaved head. He speaks in the quick-fire, fuck-inflected argot of New York law enforcement and has a tendency to lace a monologue with rhetorical questions asked and then answered.
If grit and ambition were prerequisites for the job, Gagliano possessed both in good measure. He has a long résumé of tough tactical operations, with experience working undercover, supervising SWAT operations, and serving in an elite federal paramilitary outfit known as the Hostage Rescue Team. Throughout his career, his family has lived in the suburbs of the Hudson Valley, and three years ago Gagliano was happy to be reassigned to a case so close to home. But even so, he says, nothing could have prepared him for the long odds he would encounter in Newburgh.
New York City’s success in reducing crime over the last two decades has led some to liken urban crime to a vanquished disease—a deadly affliction that ravaged the country until, miraculously, we found a cure. No one agrees on what precisely that cure entailed, and from The Tipping Point to Freakonomics, a cottage industry of competing accounts has explored whether we should credit the “broken windows” theory, the burgeoning prison system, or for that matter Roe v. Wade. But most analysts concede that one of New York City’s most significant assets was its gargantuan police force. William Bratton couldn’t have cracked down on “quality of life” crimes or developed CompStat without abundant funds and personnel. Even now, New York City employs 35,000 police officers.
Newburgh’s Police Department, by contrast, had just over 100 officers prior to the recession; today it’s down to fewer than 80. The city is nearly broke: Earlier this month, local officials proposed laying off another fifteen cops. “I don’t think Bill Bratton could do anything in Newburgh with the resources that we presently have,” says Frank Phillips, the Orange County district attorney.
The physical layout of downtown Newburgh puts this diminished force at a further disadvantage. Broadway, the once grand central thoroughfare, is wide and open, but the graffiti-scarred residential streets running off it are narrow and one-way, which creates a claustrophobic intimacy between the gangbangers and the local constabulary. “They know every car when it makes the block,” says one Newburgh police officer. “They know which cop is going to jump out of his car, which cop is going to keep driving. It’s like prisoners watching prison guards. They know the cops by name.”
Gagliano estimates that when he took the job, gang members in Newburgh outnumbered police five to one. So his first priority was to augment the local authorities with a hand-picked team of federal agents, but also, in a process he calls “force multiplication,” to provide money and matériel, in the form of overtime payments, surveillance equipment, and a steady rotation of rental cars, so that undercover officers could cruise the streets incognito.
This emergency transfusion of federal dollars was crucial, but, as Gagliano knew as well as anyone, rental cars and overtime payments would not be enough to stem the violence. To permanently restore order to Newburgh, he would need to take down the gang leadership today, but also to cut off the supply of fresh recruits who might run the streets tomorrow. Achieving that would require a tricky mix of blunt force and empathy—an unusually compassionate law-enforcement strategy, but one which Gagliano was well positioned to administer.
Shortly before Gagliano first took over the task force, a lanky 15-year-old named Jeffrey Zachary was murdered on Dubois Street. It was a Tuesday evening, just past ten o’clock. One minute, Jeffrey was laughing and joking with friends. The next, a silver sedan cruised down the darkened block and slowed long enough for someone to point a pistol out the window and squeeze off a few shots.
That a young black man would catch a bullet in Newburgh was not in itself unusual; by that point, gang-related homicides had grown almost routine. But Jeffrey Zachary was not a gang member. He was a good kid who had avoided the internecine conflicts that ensnared so many of his contemporaries; he was murdered by accident, when a Latin King gunman mistook him for a Blood. This tragedy was compounded by an appalling coincidence: Three years earlier, Jeffrey’s older brother Trent had been gunned down in much the same fashion. Both Zachary boys expired in the same emergency room.
On his first day on the job, Gagliano took a clipping of Jeffrey’s obituary and placed it under glass on his desk. He shows it to me when I visit his office. “Now, I cannot bring him back,” Gagliano says. “But I can find the assholes who did it.”
If the murder of Jeffrey Zachary hit Gagliano especially hard, it was because he happened to have known the boy; he had encountered him on the basketball court. Gagliano may be the only FBI agent in America whom gangbangers and drug dealers call “Coach.” In 2001, he ventured into Newburgh with his son in search of a better basketball league than could be found in the suburbs. They discovered a rec league that played in a cramped gym at the back of St. Mary’s Church on South Street. The team was looking for a new coach, and Gagliano volunteered.
His players started as young as 9 or 10 years old, and perhaps because many of them lacked for male role models, Gagliano became a major figure in their lives. Increasingly, they started to play a role in his. They also played some very good basketball. Several years ago, Gagliano took his travel team, the Zion Lions, all the way to a national tournament in Orlando. It was the first time many of the players had been on an airplane. The local paper covered their departure with the fanfare normally accorded a professional team, noting that dozens of college coaches would be watching them play. The team ended up taking second place, but the triumph was bittersweet: Several hours after they returned to Newburgh, the star of the team was arrested for first-degree robbery. Gagliano helped the family post bond, putting up his own house as collateral. (The charges were eventually dropped.)
One perennial obstacle to good policing in America, particularly in depressed jurisdictions like Newburgh, is that cops tend to be commuters; they don’t live on the streets they police, which can limit both their acquaintance with the neighborhoods and their investment in them. But the decade Gagliano spent coaching in Newburgh has proved to be an enormous advantage. He arrived at his job with roots in the community and credibility—what he calls “traction.” He knew the kids on the stoop, their teachers, their families. He could walk the neighborhood without a gun on his hip.
One afternoon, I join him, and as we pass the run-down rowhouses of Lander Street, or “Blood Alley,” as it’s known, kids materialize at every turn, waving from a vacant lot, calling out from the back seat of an idling car. Gagliano calls back to them by name, spreading the word about a barbecue he’s planning after basketball practice. You’d think he was a community activist.
Except he’s not: He’s an FBI agent whose stated mission is to “bring the hammer” to the very gangs that control the drug turf we are casually strolling through. Every block or so, a clutch of hard-eyed young men sit arrayed around a porch. They stare at us, unblinking, with withering disdain.
“How do I tell a kid to stay away from these guys,” Gagliano mutters, “when these guys live in his house?”
It’s an oddity of Gagliano’s situation that while he might know the victims of Newburgh’s gang murders, there’s a chance he’ll know some of the perpetrators as well. These relationships prompt discomfort, if not outright worry, among his colleagues. “You’re too close to this,” they say.
But Gagliano never really had a choice—his investment in the community wasn’t a conscious policing strategy; it was the baggage he brought to the job. He recognizes that the most intractable challenges in Newburgh are beyond the reach of law-enforcement solutions, and in this respect, his competition with the gangs has simply evolved into a multi-front affair. He relates the story of one kid in particular, a local boy I’ll call Delroy. Like many of Gagliano’s players, Delroy started out as a harmless preadolescent rascal. He wasn’t a big kid, but he knew how to carry himself and showed real talent on the court. Gagliano took an interest in him. “I knew he was a kid that lived on a tough block,” he says. “But he never gave me any guff.” Delroy developed a friendship with Gagliano’s son and became a frequent houseguest.
But as he got older, Delroy started skipping practice. This is a common problem on the team. Often, Gagliano starts a practice by instructing the players to do warm-up drills while he hops in his car and drives the streets in search of truant teammates.
“Get your ass in the car,” he’ll say when he finds them on the corner with a group of older boys. “We’re going to practice.”
And while they’re still young, that often works. But as the boys grow into surly adolescents, many just fade away. Delroy eventually stopped coming to practice altogether, Gagliano says. “He dropped off the face of the Earth.” From time to time, they would bump into each other in town, and Gagliano would urge him to come back.
“Coach, I got you,” Delroy would say. “I’m coming back.” But he never did.
“For most of them, I am their father figure, for better or for worse,” Gagliano says ruefully, before lapsing into an uncharacteristic silence.
One of Newburgh’s crueler ironies is the way today’s depressed urban landscape is overlaid on a rich architectural foundation full of vestiges of bygone wealth. In the nineteenth century, the city flourished as a hub for river-borne commerce. Thomas Edison built one of the nation’s earliest power plants there in 1884. But eventually the factories relocated, the ferry was discontinued after the construction of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and Broadway emptied out after malls opened outside town. In the sixties, the city undertook a disastrous experiment in urban renewal, demolishing the historic waterfront but failing to replace it with anything.
It feels almost spooky to walk today among the Gilded Age mansions of long-dead industrialists on Montgomery Street, some of them boarded up, others carved into low-income apartments. Abandoned buildings abound, many of them gone to rot. “We’re not unique,” Nicholas Valentine, a local tailor who serves as Newburgh’s mayor, tells me. “It’s happened to many communities up and down the Hudson. Poughkeepsie. Peekskill. Things die.”
These days, roughly a quarter of Newburgh residents live below the poverty line. The city has few jobs, little retail, no grocery store, no public transportation, and not much in the way of wholesome recreational opportunities for kids. What it does have is an astonishing variety of street gangs.
For as long as anyone can remember, local kids in Newburgh have banded into informal fraternities, adopting colorful names and staking claim to some corner of turf: There were the Alleycatz, the Darkside, Five Corners Venom, too many to name. Some gangs were involved in the drug trade; others just made a ruckus. Patrick Arnold, a detective lieutenant with the Newburgh Police Department, remembers one gang, the Ashy Bandits, which had members as young as 8 years old. “They were raising hell,” he says. “Breaking into cars. Stealing your shit. We ended up getting calls from drug dealers, saying, ‘You’ve got to do something about these kids!’ ”
No one knows precisely how the Bloods first came to Newburgh, but the East Coast Bloods were born on Rikers Island in 1993, when a charismatic inmate named Omar Portee started recruiting black prisoners to oppose the Latin Kings, who dominated the penal system at the time. Portee had spent time among the original Bloods, in Los Angeles, and as he marshaled hundreds of inmates, he borrowed codes and mythology from the Southern California gang.
But while Portee’s creation was symbolically affiliated with the West Coast Bloods, it was not connected to them in any organizational sense. Gang migration, it turns out, is a controversial concept. Recent years have witnessed a profusion in small towns and suburbs of organizations that identify themselves as Bloods or Crips, Latin Kings or Mexican Mafia. But it’s not clear whether actual gangs are on the move or simply individual gang members—or perhaps just gang culture. There is some evidence of Bronx-based Bloods’ establishing new outposts for drug distribution in places like Kingston. Richard Zabel, deputy U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, says that one explanation for the presence of gangs in the Hudson Valley is the very success, during the nineties, of gang crackdowns in New York City. “They got both prosecuted and atomized,” Zabel says. “People left the city and moved to these other towns.” What we are witnessing today in places like Newburgh, he believes, is “the cresting of that problem.”
Still, Zabel argues, most gangs lack the strategic initiative to enact a franchised expansion. Instead, studies suggest, individual gang members may be moving for reasons of their own, swept up in the broader demographic currents through which poor populations have dispersed from large urban hubs to smaller cities and suburbs.
One thing is clear: The so-called national gangs now proliferating across the country often have no connection to any national enterprise at all. A local crew that starts throwing signs and wearing red might simply have intuited that when it comes to striking fear in rivals and building esprit de corps, it’s not a bad strategy to just borrow an established national brand. “Gang culture migrates faster than gang members,” cautions James Howell of the National Gang Center. Omar Portee had to travel as far as Los Angeles to bring the Blood culture back to Rikers, but that culture has long since gone viral. Those thugs outside the 7-Eleven might not be foot soldiers in some terrifying expansion, in other words, but rather, to use a favorite pejorative of criminologists, simply wannabes.
Nevertheless, as Gagliano points out, if a group of kids who call themselves Bloods start murdering rivals over drug turf, debates about their provenance become rather beside the point. “In the nineties, we hadn’t heard anything about the Bloods or the Latin Kings in Newburgh,” he says. “Last ten years? Fuck, yeah.” Almost overnight, these two gangs seem to have subsumed many of Newburgh’s fractious smaller groups, and as they started to consolidate drug turf, perhaps inevitably they went to war.
By the time Jeffrey Zachary was 9 years old, one of his older brothers, Chaz, was in state prison for shooting a man execution style at the corner of South and Lander. Chaz was a Blood. Trent, another older brother, fell in with the gangs as well, adopting the nickname Triggaman. Jeffrey was only 12 when Trent was killed, and you might think, given the logic of murder in Newburgh, that he would have become a Blood himself and sought revenge. But he didn’t. Instead, he spent the last years of his young life steering clear of the gangs, no small achievement for a boy growing up on Dubois Street. “I don’t want to die the way my brother died,” he told his sister. But then, wretchedly, he did.
One morning, I visit Melanie Zachary at the pink wooden house on Dubois Street where she still lives, around the corner from where one of her sons was murdered and directly across the street from where the other was. In the meager light afforded by a TV in the corner, Melanie shows me a makeshift memorial to Trent, with signatures and little notes from his friends. From her wallet, she pulls an old school photo of Jeffrey. She tells me stories about Jeffrey, what a cutup he was, how you always knew when he was lying because he would blink uncontrollably. She takes off her glasses to demonstrate, letting out a chuckle that turns into a sob.
“Your kid is gone five minutes,” she says, trembling, “and you wonder, where’s my child at? Is he dead or alive?” She’s sobbing now, swaying slightly, looking at me searchingly, as if I might possess some answer. “It’s like I’m living in Vietnam or Iraq or something. It don’t make no sense!”
“You get a Blood, he goes to jail on drug charges,” Gagliano says to me one day. “When he’s in jail, what does he do? He’s recruiting other guys. They get out of jail, and they’re all coming back to the same area.”
This is a tragic paradox of law enforcement in Newburgh: Incarceration, which is designed to deter crime, may actually be accelerating it. Several years ago, a criminologist named Todd Clear studied communities in Tallahassee, Florida, and found that when a large enough proportion of people from a given neighborhood is locked up, the impact on the community can be dangerously destabilizing. Families are sundered, ex-cons with felonies on their records are excluded from gainful employment, and a certain culture begins to take hold. Children who have a father or brother in prison are statistically more likely to commit crimes. In Clear’s view, imprisonment “now produces the very social problems on which it feeds.”
This phenomenon is exacerbated in Newburgh, where many juveniles have an early opportunity to imbibe gang culture behind bars. Kids in Newburgh often start selling drugs and robbing people before they hit puberty, and the recidivism rate for male juvenile offenders who are detained in New York State is an astonishing 81 percent. As a result, Lieutenant Arnold allows, “we’re kind of building this monster along the way.”
Gagliano fully appreciates the unintended social consequences of locking up so many young people—he’s seen those consequences firsthand. But when he arrived in Newburgh, the solution he proposed was to lock them up for longer.Gagliano believes that one explanation for the revolving door between the streets of Newburgh and the prison system was the comparatively short sentences that gang members were serving on state charges. A six-month bid allows a kid to marinate in gang culture just long enough to become dangerous before returning to the streets. So what Gagliano proposed to do was identify the most hard-core offenders, then send them away not for a year or two but for decades. To do this, he would employ an unlikely but powerful tool: the racketeering act of 1970, or RICO.
Gagliano had first witnessed the power of RICO as a young case agent battling the New York mob. But during the nineties, federal prosecutors in New York started using the statute to go after violent street gangs as well. The great advantage of a racketeering case is that authorities can arrest the entire membership of a criminal enterprise and bring murder charges not just against the bagman who pulls the trigger but also the don who orders the hit. Gagliano was convinced that major RICO cases against the Bloods and the Latin Kings could effectively dismantle the gangs.
At a bunkerlike FBI office in Goshen, not far from Newburgh, Gagliano’s task force began assembling poster-board dossiers, delineating the identities, nicknames, and residences of each gang member, along with their roles in the drug trade. Whereas a RICO case against the Mafia might be constructed by installing a wiretap at a social club and simply sitting back to listen, in Newburgh the investigators were forced to hit the streets, working undercover and cultivating informants. “The hardest part that first year was just identifying the players,” Gagliano says.
To prosecute street gangs as racketeering organizations, you have to prove that they were actually organized. The Latin Kings, the task force discovered, were small but coherent. In fact, they made an almost comical fetish of organization. Each chapter was governed by a “Crown Council” that ran regular meetings and collected dues. Members adhered to an exhaustive handwritten manifesto. (“No smoking of drugs,” ran a typical prohibition. “With the exception of weed or hashish.”)
Diagramming Newburgh’s Bloods proved trickier. Despite the gang’s vast membership, it was a looser enterprise, and at any given moment many of the key players were in jail. Fortunately, before the task force started work, several state and local detectives had made a map of all the schools in Newburgh, knowing they could obtain stiffer penalties for drug crimes committed within a thousand feet of a school. They swung a compass in circumference around each school, and realized, to their delight, that because Newburgh was so small, it was nearly impossible to find a street corner to sell narcotics that wasn’t in the zone of one school or another. These case files became a starting point for Gagliano’s team, which then did months of surveillance and interviews with informants to develop a rough picture of the Newburgh Bloods’ ever-fluctuating org chart.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the task force, when it identified these drug sales, was not to interfere with them. The methodical collection of detail necessary for a major conspiracy case can run counter to the professional imperatives of local police. In your standard “buy and bust” scenario, a cop orchestrates an undercover buy from a street dealer, then cuffs him the moment the drugs change hands. But a federal case requires patience. So the task force arranged undercover buys and let them proceed—all the while running comprehensive surveillance so that each offense could eventually be tallied in court.
Gagliano’s team members did their research, and most of the time they knew who would turn up at a buy. But occasionally there were surprises. One night, the task force was orchestrating one of these stings when someone other than the Blood they were expecting suddenly appeared.
It was Delroy.
Gagliano tensed. He thought about his options. Can I intervene? Can I wave it off? Can I tell them, when we get back, we’re not charging him?
But he knew he could do none of those things. And because the task force was still gathering evidence and not yet making arrests, Delroy headed home that night with no idea that he’d been made.
By May of last year, the task force had accumulated enough evidence to start rounding people up. In the predawn darkness one overcast morning, almost two years to the day after Jeffrey Zachary’s murder, scores of official vehicles began to quietly mass by an abandoned armory on South William Street. In the musty, cavernous interior, Gagliano stood in a vast drill hall that had once been used by soldiers to ride horses. He had not slept all night, a habit from his SWAT days. Assembled before him in the dim light were 500 armed agents, cops, and state troopers. This would be the first of the federal raids in Newburgh, and the most ambitious. Jumping onto a table to be heard, Gagliano issued final instructions. “Be careful out there,” he said. “No blue on blue.”
The cavalry left the armory and fanned across the city, charging into houses and apartments, swinging battering rams and tossing stun grenades. Dozens of groggy young men were escorted, blinking, into the street. The task force made 64 arrests that day. Using RICO, they would ultimately indict what they believe is the full leadership of the Bloods and the Latin Kings—including two alleged members of the Kings’ Crown Council, Wilson Pagan and Jose Lagos, who, according to the indictment, ordered the hit that killed Jeffrey Zachary.
“Talk about satisfaction,” Gagliano says. But the victory had a few complications. Fourteen of the men on the indictment that morning were nowhere to be found, so Gagliano deployed the Marshals Service to track each fugitive down. For a few flickering moments, Manhattanites were afforded a glimpse of the gang war in the Hudson Valley when the FBI flashed images of the Newburgh fugitives on one of the jumbo screens in Times Square.
Among the missing was Delroy. He wasn’t at home when the task force came barging in that morning, and after a week passed and he could not be found, it appeared that he had gone underground.
Gagliano decided to reach out to the family directly. He convinced them that Delroy needed to turn himself in, and promised that he would come personally, and alone; there would be no guns drawn.
At the appointed hour, Delroy appeared at the Boys and Girls Club on Liberty Street. It was an awkward reunion. Gagliano explained that he was going to drive Delroy to the armory, where he would be processed. He told Delroy that he didn’t have a choice, that had his own son turned up at the buy, he would have had to do the same thing.
“As a 46-year-old hunter-killer,” Gagliano recalls, “to sit there in the car with him and just—we bawled. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t pull the hook out of his mouth and let him go.”
A photo hangs on the wall in Gagliano’s home of a smiling 13-year-old Delroy with his arm draped around Gagliano’s son. But today Delroy is in federal prison. He ended up pleading guilty and got ten years. Gagliano was with him for the sentencing.
One sweltering August afternoon, Gagliano and I are wandering around the streets of Newburgh. A lot of people are out: little girls skipping rope, boys playing touch football, an old lady fanning herself in a lawn chair on the sidewalk.
The streets are undeniably safer. “You take a hundred people out of here,” says Lieutenant Arnold, “it has to make some impact on the crime.” No one in Newburgh will tell you so without immediately touching wood, but so far this year, there has not been a single gang-related homicide.
Still, criminality has a way of creeping back. The kids are on the corners, and they’re younger every day. “If it’s an underground economy, and it’s really the only thing people can make money on,” Arnold says, “you’re not going to stamp it out.”
As we walk, Gagliano talks with evident pride about Newburgh’s armory, which the city bought for a dollar and reopened after the raid last May as a community center. It’s a small step, but Gagliano savors the symbolism of converting a building that was associated with the punitive aspect of his strategy for Newburgh into one that will embody some redemptive possibilities as well. For all of the success of his enforcement strategy, he is convinced this is the only way that Newburgh will ever permanently improve: one incremental alternative to gang life at a time.
The armory has a basketball court, and on Saturday mornings, Gagliano coaches 3-to-11-year-olds. “They are the most adorable, sweet, lovable group of kids,” he tells me. Then he catches himself and adds, “Yet some of them will be murderers.”