Crime-Related Quotations

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat Mar 30 11:59:24 UTC 2013

One of my favorite quotations is from Owney Madden, a New York City
bootlegger.  A shooting-war among the various bootlegging concerns,
including his, lead to the police cracking down on speakeasies, underground
stills and breweries, and so forth.  Owney said, "Why don't they leave us
alone?  We are only killing each other."

I used to think of this regularly, back during the gang wars of the 1980s
and 1990s, whenever a gangster-punk shot at someone who had annoyed him and
hit a little kid in a playground half a block away.  Ah, those were the
good old days, when crime was in the hands of responsible businessmen like
Owney, Vannie Higgins, Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond and the rest.


On Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 9:52 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> In a 1977 letter to police, David Berkowitz wrote, "I am the 'Son of
> Sam.'"  Later, when he was apprehended, he said, "Well, you got me. How
> come it took you such a long time?"
> It occurs to me that one class of famous quotations that may be missed by
> quotation dictionaries are written or oral statements by famous criminals
> in direct connection with their crimes, such as in ransom letters, letters
> to police, letters to newspapers, messages left at the scene of a crime,
> remarks made in the course of committing a crime, remarks while being
> arrested or arraigned, testimony during a trial, letters written while in
> prison, last words before an execution, etc.  I would welcome suggestions
> of such criminal quotations that may not be picked up by quotation
> dictionaries.
> Fred Shapiro<
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society -

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