The New York Police Department’s best-known writer in residence, Detective Edward Conlon, has turned in his shield.
A bagpiper stationed outside 1 Police Plaza played a few tunes as a freshly retired Mr. Conlon emerged from Police Headquarters last Friday. Mr. Conlon was accompanied by a handful of pals, familiar characters to readers of “Blue Blood,” his 2004 memoir of patrolling and making drug arrests in the Bronx.
As Mr. Conlon walked away, he said that his family had been working in law enforcement for more than a century, going back to great-grandfather.
“That’s enough for now,” said Mr. Conlon, who plans to write full time.
Mr. Conlon himself had 16 years on the job, which he said was long enough that he was in no danger of running out of writing material.
Mr. Conlon’s first novel, published earlier this year, is the story of two detectives and their arrest capers. The protagonist of the novel “Red on Red” is a detective named Nick Meehan, who makes no secret of being drawn to a good story.
“Nick preferred cases that went nowhere, or rather, he was drawn to mysteries that were not resolved with a name typed on an arrest report,” Mr. Conlon wrote.
Mr. Conlon, a writer before he joined the Police Department in 1995, said he did not initially anticipate writing about police work. “I didn’t come on for the stories,” Mr. Conlon said.
“I came on because I thought I might like the work,” he said. “But this caught me up and the two careers meshed really well.”
Early in his career, Mr. Conlon wrote about his experiences as a police officeer under the pseudonym Marcus Laffey for The New Yorker.
Storytelling is a longstanding tradition among officers.
“In any given barroom, squad room or cookout, there are going to be cops telling stories,” Mr. Conlon said. “Many that are better than mine. I just can write them in a certain way.”
For much of the last decade, Mr. Conlon was assigned to the detective squad in the 44th Precinct in the Bronx. More recently, Mr. Conlon spent about 20 months in Jordan as the Police Department’s liaison to law enforcement in that country. When he returned in the spring, he remained with the Intelligence Division, an assignment that he said did not suit him.
“There’s a lot of watching people, which to me is less interesting than catching people who have already done something bad,” he said.
He was reassigned to the 44th Precinct squad for the last few days before his retirement.
Of the perhaps 2,000 cases he handled, Mr. Conlon said, “Some, you can close with a five-minute phone call; others you carry for the rest of your days,” he said.
Asked how detective work was changing, Mr. Conlon noted that the case that can be closed with a five-minute phone call is becoming a thing of the past.
In recent years, Mr. Conlon said, bosses expect detectives to spend more and more time grappling with some of the city’s lesser mysteries.
“Take the smallest case you can think of: a woman gets her purse stolen at a bar,” Mr. Conlon said. “It used to be a short conversation; now they want to subpoena phone records, and a three-way phone conversation with the victim, a detective, and the credit card company. What was once 10 minutes spent on a case is now weeks.”
Young and Missing
From the start, it was Leiby Kletzky’s age — 8 — that jumped out at investigators.
Standing 4 feet tall and weighing 50 pounds, Leiby had joined a rare universe of people even before the police issued an R.M.A. — police jargon for “request for media attention” — in the case on July 12.
Leiby was a child, under 10 years old, missing in New York City.
The police got the call from his father at 8:34 p.m. on Monday, after Leiby had left a Brooklyn school where he was attending camp at 5:05 p.m. and embarked on a walk in Borough Park with plans to meet his mother. He never made it, and detectives on Wednesday morning arrested a man, Levi Aron, who they say killed Leiby and dismembered his body.
Between Jan. 1 and July 18 of this year, there have been seven children under 10 years old, including Leiby, whose disappearances have caused detectives to initiate a so-called “missing persons” investigation, the police said. But six of those cases are closed, the police said.
“The one missing, under 10, that is still open, is a 3-year-old child that was reported missing along with her mother,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. The police have located the mother in Vermont, but until they personally document that the 3-year-old is with her, they will not close the case.
From the calendar year 2010, there is also one missing child: Patrick Alford.
In New York, “missing persons” cases have numbered 5,790 so far this year, according to police statistics. However, there are roughly 25,000 instances a year in which people call the police worried about the disappearance of someone, and the police respond and take some action. A much smaller number, however, actually become investigative cases, the police said.
They become cases based on the circumstances of the situation and the timing, when the police are notified and when the detectives initiate a case.
As for the actual cases, there were a total of 3,480 cases of missing people between the ages of 10 and 17, the police said. Of those, 2,077 have been closed, about 60 percent of them, the police said. According to Mr. Browne, the remaining open cases “are predominately runaways from private homes.”
Of those missing who are older than 17, there have been 2,303 so far this year, the police said. The police broke those down into the following categories.
- Category G: those suspected of being victims of involuntary disappearance, who are usually 10 and above. There are 264 of these cases, with 169 of them, 64 percent, closed, the police said.
- Special category: those who are learning disabled or who have special problems or medical needs. Of the 384 of these cases so far this year, 256 of them are closed, 67 percent, the police said.
- Group foster home cases: those who are wards of the state, the police said, between the ages of 11 and 22. They usually vanish at 18 or 19 years of age. Of the 1,474 of those cases, 1,011 are closed, or 69 percent, the police said.
- Missing elderly people, 65 or older: There are 181 of these and 117 are closed, or 65 percent, said the police.
For the police in New York, the clearance rate for all the “missing persons,” cases — regardless of age — is typically 90 percent at the end of each calendar year, Mr Browne said. “The remaining 10 percent is investigated into the next year,” he said.
Two Possible Candidates for Mayor Cross Paths
The next mayoral race is two years away, but one of those considering a bid for City Hall is Christine C. Quinn, who by having raised $1.3 million so far is leading any potential competitors.
She went to Police Headquarters recently and stood shoulder to shoulder with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, another of the city’s leaders proponents talk of as a possible candidate in 2013. After a joint news conference, Ms. Quinn, the City Council speaker, was asked if, in a potential Quinn administration, she would keep Mr. Kelly on as police commissioner.
With Mr. Kelly within earshot, she said that whoever is the next New York City mayor would be lucky if Mr. Kelly would agree to stay on as police commissioner.