Sunday, January 27, 2008

An Optimistic Interview with Park Slope's "Murder" Blogger Paul LaRosa

Just because The Optimist looks on the bright side of life doesn’t mean he stays clear of the dark side of Brooklyn. As soon as I first read about the concept behind Park Slope author Paul LaRosa’s new blog, I became curious about what kind of man had decided to write a daily chronicle of all of New York City’s murders.

It turns out that Paul LaRosa, the writer of The Murder Book 2008 blog, is a family man with a wife and two college-aged kids, who goes to the dentist – manifestly not the loner holed up in a room wallpapered with obituaries circled madly in red ink that I first imagined. But despite his seeming so nice and being just like you and me, LaRosa does have an obsession – or at least a fascination – with murder. A former Daily News reporter, LaRosa is the author of two true crime books revolving around murder (Tacoma Confidential: A True Story of Murder, Suicide, and a Police Chief’s Secret Life and Nightmare in Napa) with a third on the way.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul by email this week, making him my first interview, er… victim here at

THE BROOKLYN OPTIMIST: What possessed you to want to write a blog chronicling New York City's murders?

PAUL LAROSA: I do a lot of work about murder, frankly, being a TV producer for "48 Hours Mystery" and a true crime author. In fact, my most recent book - due out at the end of March - is about the NYC murder of dancer Catherine Woods. It's called Death of a Dream. Because of my work, someone suggested I read The L.A. Times Homicide Report, which is that paper's attempt to chronicle every murder in L.A. I was thinking someone ought to do that here. It was already 12/31/07 and so I thought, well, why don't I do it? So I did.

OPTIMIST: Isn't this a pretty morbid undertaking?

LAROSA: Yes, no doubt about that. But I am fascinated by the reasons people murder - love, lust, money, jealousy - it's all very biblical. What's depressing is when someone is killed - and a fair number of NYC murders fall into this category - because of a stupid argument or someone looked at someone the wrong way. There's nothing fascinating about that… and it shows the need for gun control. These murders would have been fistfights (maybe knife fights) a couple of generations ago.

OPTIMIST: New York City had 494 murders in 2007 - the lowest number we have suffered in more than 40 years - earning it praise from some as "the nation's safest big city". Nonetheless, many visitors to your site certainly won't be able to help themselves from assessing New York as a very violent place. Do you think that this is an appropriate time in our City's history to begin a project like the The Murder Book 2008?

LAROSA: Well, 494 souls are 494 souls any way you look at it. Do most of us feel safe? Yes. But there are neighborhoods in Brooklyn and The Bronx where this is just not so. I also think it's important to look at who is being killed (the majority by far are blacks and Latinos) and where the killings are taking place. Who would feel equally as safe if the 494 murders were mainly whites who lived in Manhattan?

OPTIMIST: How does Brooklyn compare to the other boroughs in terms of murder?

LAROSA: There are parts of Brooklyn where the murder rate went up last year and more cops have been assigned. We'll see what happens as the year goes on.

OPTIMIST: Since you are only recording murders that have been reported by the City's three largest newspapers [the Times, News, and Post], are there many murders that you miss?

LAROSA: Again, that's one of my questions. Are there dozens or a hundred or so murders that are just considered too inconsequential to report? Already, I have to look really hard at the papers to find some that you think would have garnered more coverage. To take one example, why is it that when a 69-year-old black grandmother is sexually assaulted and murdered in Harlem the story gets so little ink? Yet, we're still reading about the mugging of a 101-year-old white woman last year? No one has been arrested yet for the Harlem murder which, by the way, means a sexual killer is on the loose up there.

OPTIMIST: Do you think that keeping a daily numerical tally of victims could reduce the significance of these individuals' deaths to statistics?

LAROSA: I think just the opposite. I'm highlighting every murder victim I can find in a more or less equal way.

OPTIMIST: What do you think on mornings when you open the papers and you don't find any murders?

LAROSA: It's a great day!

OPTIMIST: Finally, you and I both started our blogs on the first day of this year. Where in The Murder Book 2008 can I find cause for optimism?

LAROSA: I hope for even fewer murders this year than last. And when you see where the vast majority of these murders are taking place, at least some people will take solace in the fact that they'll never go to Mott Haven or Far Rockaway or even a Chelsea night spot.

[BREAKING NEWS: Just before this interview was posted The Optimist received a last-minute email from Paul LaRosa calling my attention to a new blog he has just begun, apparently in an attempt to even out his karma. It’s called Here Is New York and purports itself to be “a record of all the good, curious & quirky aspects of living in New York from a NYC native”.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

recycling other city's blogs: