Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working The Tramp Racket

New York, 1895

Two Views of the Way It Is Done in This County.

"A special deputy sheriff in Jamaica met six tramps on the corner of Washington and Fulton street, took them to a saloon, treated them to beer, bought them a pint of whisky, took them before a Justice of the Peace and had them committed to the county jail for 30 days each. Then one of the tramps treated."

The above information comes to THE FARMER in a communication from a citizen of the village.

The Brooklyn Eagle of Sunday, in a long article on the tramp abuse, had this characteristic bit of information relative to how the game is worked in Jamaica:

"There are several tramps who strike the place as soon as cold weather sets in. All of them know the constable and to make sure that he is still to be found they inquire with the familiarity of an old friend for his residence. One of these fellows I questioned and asked if he knew the constable. 'Oh, yes, I know him,' the fellow replied, 'he takes me down every year and takes care of my bank book while I am stopping with the sheriff.' The idea of a tramp having a bank account struck me as somewhat ludicrous, so I questioned the fellow as to his sincerity. He assured me that he was thoroughly in earnest; that he earned a few dollars extra during the warm weather and was putting it aside for future use."

(From Monday's New York Herald.)

"The constables of Queens county are paying a bounty for tramps. Every tramp they capture and take to prison represents fees to these officials of from $5 to $8, and they have hit upon the expedient of 'dividing commissions' with the tramps, the same as a life insurance agent allows his clients a rebate.

"Tramps who surrender get from $1.50 to $2.50 per head from the constable, who receives from $5 to $8 from the county and, of course, make a good thing out of it. During the summer the tramps do a little work now and then and save money, but in the winter there is nothing to be earned, and they want to be where it is warm. Then they begin negotiations through some middleman for their surrender to the constable who allows the highest scalp money."

—The Long Island Farmer, Jamaica, NY, March 1, 1895, p. 2.

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