in New York Undercover

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226266091
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226266114 | DOI:

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In New York City, the excesses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to a decline in public confidence in private detective agencies and municipal police departments. Social activist organizations were forced to reject professional detectives and instead relied on undercover investigators, a mode of investigative social activism that reached its apotheosis during the war years. Private organizations such as the Committee of Fourteen and the People's Institute, teamed up with government agencies on a variety of projects, from policing moral conditions around military encampments, to monitoring domestic political subversion, and assisting immigrants in their transition to their new country. After World War I, however, social activists largely lost their power to define the direction of subsequent policing and measures of social change. The federal government formalized and professionalized policies and procedures in other sectors such as the intelligence agencies. With the rise of a stronger Federal Bureau of Investigation, the prestige and power of social activists slipped dramatically.

Keywords: New York City; social activists; undercover investigators; private organizations; Committee of Fourteen; People's Institute; Federal Bureau of Investigation; intelligence agencies; policing; social change

Chapter.  4999 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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