These crooked schatchens have been
little talked about until lately. Their trade has
been so secret, their precautions so complete and
their "team work" so remarkable that they have
operated almost entirely unobserved. Now and then
the complaint of some deserted wife has started the
police upon a scent which seemed bound to lead to
new and important discoveries, but it was usually
found to "end in squirrel tracks or run up a tree."
Even now it is next to impossible to
arrest or convict a "swindling schatchen," as the
police call them. The Twelfth precinct police force
has been at work on the overthrow of several for
years, but the game is a long and arduous one, and,
as one of the young detectives downtown declares,
"would take the entire time of the force to the
exclusion of every other case if you wanted to put
the thing through quickly."
The swindling schatchen has two
possible methods of procedure. It depends upon his
nerve as to which he adopts. If he be a brazen
specimen he will advertise himself frankly as a
schatchen and bring as many men and girls together
as possible, asking a commission for his services.
The men are always picked from his own band, the
swindling broker, the trusting girl and the blackleg
prepared to marry as many women as he can
conveniently pauperize in a limited space of time.
But in this case the marriage broker is less
courageous and hides his nefarious trade behind the
screen of some legitimate and blatantly advertised
The favorite cloak of these schatchens is an
"employment agency." They have large signs, front
offices, desks, ledgers and all the costliest
paraphernalia. To them come girls in search of
work--most of them foreigners just from the other
side. The girls' names are entered, their looks and
savings are estimated, and the wily employment agent
talks matrimony, the comforts of home and being
settled for life into the girls' ears.
Marriage Broker in a Yiddish Employment Bureau.
The girls who are amenable to the
agent's reasoning find husbands speedily for the
coming, their small earnings are taken away and
immediately afterwards they are deserted and
entirely without funds. They may appeal to the
police, but he husbands have gone, and who can touch
the agent? He knew nothing about the man's
disreputable character, of course, and had nothing
to do with the matter beyond introducing one young
person to another. Schatchen? Nonsense! He is no
marriage broker. And he pats his inside pocket where
lies his share of the last matrimonial haul.
Some one living down in that
neighborhood once went to a genuine employment
bureau to engage a servant for his wife. The girl to
whom he spoke looked at him with obvious distrust.
"I want a straight job," she said. "None of the sort
of trying to get you over to Mr. S----'s office. I
don't want to get married."
As has been said before, the "team
work," or concerted action, of these matrimonial
bands is rather extraordinary. The interdependence
of the members is of necessity tremendous, and the
men all stand in with one another so successfully as
to drive the police and the plain-clothes men
frantic. The best chance for the force comes when
some one man, to save and square himself, "peaches"
on another, and so destroys a little of that perfect
harmony in the organization of crooks.
Sometimes of course, a broker cheats
one of his men, or a man goes back on he broker and
fails to give up the promised share of the plunder
obtained from the newest wife, but this does not
help the police. No complaint will be made, of
course, for, as may readily be imagined, in no walk
of life is the glass house lesson more forcibly
The men who belong to the bands and
lend themselves to the vile schemes for betraying
and robbing young girls are all of a peculiar type.
Shifty eyes, weak chins, evil mouths--they look and
are ready for any job that may offer itself--the
lower the better.
"And just consider," said a
detective, who stood watching a group of them the
other night. "Just consider how easy it is for them
to get away when they have succeeded in pulling a
job off. They have only to move to another part of
the town first, then another, and even a fourth
perhaps; the city is so enormous, and the districts
are so distinct and separated, and when he fancies
that he may be getting rather close to warm weather
there is always a 'get away' handy. There never was
a place with so many get aways as New York, and
these crooks are wise to them all, too!"
You must appreciate the truth of this
last statement if you could have seen, as did the
writer, a map of Manhattan in an "employment
agent's" office, with the "get aways" all duly
marked. Get aways? Well, the Grand Central, with its
various railroads, is one; the ferries and the
bridge lines constitute the rest; the local get
aways are subway and "L" stations, car line
junctions, etc. No crook ever planned a job of any
sort, big or little, without mapping out his get
aways first. He tries to work things so that he has
a choice of two or three. The beforementioned map
has estimates of population in various districts and
al sorts of valuable information. Its usefulness in
an employment agency seemed rather obscure, but
perhaps the agent was a person who liked to be well
informed on all subjects!
"The oldest sort of team work I ever
saw," said Alderman T--- of the rogues' district,
"was that of a man and his wife who carried on a
sort of matrimonial business of their own. They
would separate by mutual agreement, go and marry
again, he a new wife and she a new husband, and
finally reunite to divide the winnings. That beats
the schatchen business hollow.
"Schatchens? Oh, they are so thick
as--well, perhaps not as thick as thieves in these
parts, for thieves happen to be particularly plenty;
but there is no lack of schatchens. Most of them are
quiet, decent old fellows enough. There is one now.
He does a thriving business. Respectable looking?
Well, rather. He's 'the legitimate,' you know. But
the others--oh, they are common swindlers! I have
come in contact with plenty of them, and they are a
degree or two lower than the lowest. In the old
days, before I became alderman, I could have told
you some stories."