THRASHER TELLS OF VICE
Samuel P. Thrasher was the first witness of the afternoon. He said the Committee of Fifteen, of which he has been superintendent since 1913, was organized in 1908 and incorporated in 1911. It was a voluntary organization, he said, supported by voluntary subscriptions. It employs four regular investigators. Its special work to enforce the law against pandering and to suppress the traffic in women. The organization has made vigorous use of the abatement law. Since July 15, Mr. Thrasher said, it has sent out 287 notices to owners that their property was being used for immoral purposes. Of these 245 got rid of the women.
Assistant State’s Attorney Hayden N. Bell read from the last annual report of the society issued last May that "the committee believes the majority of the police in Chicago are honest and want to do what is right, but the time has come when the committee, in possession of incontrovertible facts, cannot remain silent in regard to the inefficiency and positive corruption revealed in the police department."
MR. BELL — You wrote that?
MR. THRASHER — I did.
Gave Evidence to Hoyne.
Q.— Tell us what you know on this subject. A.— We tried to find out if persistent rumors were true and we planned a deliberate campaign and obtained evidence that policemen were collecting tribute from disorderly houses. We turned the evidence over to State’s Attorney Hoyne.
Q. — To any one else? A. — No, and until it is used I do not feel at liberty to particularize.
Q. — You recognize telephones as one of the greatest aids to immoral houses ? A. — Yes. Without them some of the houses could not exist.
Q. —Did your take up with Chief Healy the proposition to remove telephones from such places ? A. — Yes. We had worked in harmony with Chief Gleason in this matter. Mr. Healey said he would look into the matter. He hasn’t taken out a phone. This is for him to explain.
Q —When did you confer with Chief Healey ? A. — In August, 1915.
Q. — Why didn’t the committee request the telephone company to remove the phones ? A. — The company had said it would not do it except upon the request of the chief of police.
Q. — What is the effect of the removal of phones from such houses ? A. — Tremendously crippling.
Healy Put Questions.
Mr. HEALY [on cross examination] — How recently have you inquired to learn what Chief Healey has done in this regard?
Mr. THRASHER — Some time in the summer I had a talk with an official of the telephone company and he told me Chief Healey had not asked the removal of any phone.
Q. —Haven’t you been informed that Chief Healey has asked many removals ? A. — No.
Q. — Do you know Clifford Roe ? A. — Yes.
Q. — He has worked in conjunction with your committee ? A. — On Aug. 2, last, we requested the mayor to revoke the licenses of ten saloons in which women operated and twelve immoral houses. He referred us to Corporation Counsel Ettelson and Mr. Ettelson assigned Mr. Roe to help us. On his report to Mr. Ettelson the mayor revoked eight out of ten licenses. The immoral houses were put out of business.
Q. — When ? A. — Sept. 30.
Roe Took Some Action.
Q. — What did Roe do ? A. — After I had located the place for him, he did something, I don’t know what. My men, however, reported that that night there were more policemen in the district than before.
Q. — You got effective service? A. — I did. I thank the mayor and thank God those places were suppressed.
Q. — How was the old red light district eliminated ? A. — By the raids of State’s Attorney Wayman in 1912.
Q. — Was that raid induced by the Committee of Fifteen ? A. — It was. Things remained quiet in the district until last December. Then sudden lawlessness developed. It has been growing worse since, until Capt. Max Nootbaar came. He succeeded Capt. Joseph Smith, the suspended commander of the Twenty-second Street station, about ten days ago. He cleaned up the district even in this short time. I don’t believe there is a single prostitute in the Twenty-second street district today.
Influence on Suspensions.
Q. — Was the suspension of Capt. W. P. O’Brien and Capt. Smith due to information given to Chief Healey by the Committee of Fifteen " A. — I think perhaps it was.
Q. — Did your committee ask the suspensions ? A. — I don’t know that we asked them. In a letter to the mayor I asked that the law be enforced in that district or that somebody be sent there who would enforce it.
Q. — Your request received immediate attention ? A. — I would not say immediate attention. The houses in the Twenty-second street district were closed on Sept. 30.
Q. — That was due to Mr. Roe’s activities ? A. — No one could have asked more energy and ability than Mr. Roe displayed.
Q. — Soc conditions were corrected and the district cleaned up ? A. — Yes, and it will stay clean as long as Capt. Nootbaar remains in command of it.
Q. — Chief Healey sent Capt. Nootbaar there ? A. — Yes, and he is doing splendid work.
Ordered to Learn Laws.
JUDGE OLSON — Did you ever hear that Capt. Nootbaar called in his police officers and gave them copies of the laws, ordinances and police department rules and gave them ten days in which to learn how to enforce them?
MR. THRASHER — It doesn’t surprise me. Capt. Nootbaar’s work shows what policemen can do.
MR. JOHNSTON — If left unhampered by men higher up.
MR. THRASHER — By men above them, politicians or anybody else.
MR. HEALEY — What were the conditions in the district from 1913 to 1915"
MR. THRASHER — All the houses raided by State’s Attorney Wayman had reopened by May, 1913. We found 400 houses between Twelfth street and Twhenty-sixth, sheltering 2,000 women. We began making the names of owners of building public in the newspapers. That precipitated a merry fight. By the activity of the owners and more or less by the help of the police — not as much as we expected — we cleaned the district up until it became a desert of empty houses. We kept it under control until last December.
Praise for Police.
Q. — Do you think your committee did better work than the police " A. — The police did splendid work at times and in places.
Q. — You talked with Chief Healey in regard to Capt. O’Brien’s Cottage Grove district? A. — Yes. He sent O’Brien to see me. I proposed to give him a list of thirty or more immoral house in his district. But he told me there was not such a house in his district. He showed such an unfriendly air that I did not give him the list of houses.
Q. — Where were those houses ? A. — There was Pearl Morton’s at 2249 Wabash Avenue, and Libby Martin’s at 2703 Wabash, both notorious places and wide open. I asked O’Brien to raid these two places, but nothing was don.
JUDGE OLSON — Did you complain to Chief Healy about O’Brien’s neglect?
MR. THRASHER — I wouldn’t call it a complaint. I stated the facts.
MR HEALY — What official of the telephone company informed you that Chief Healey had never asked the removal of phones from disorderly houses ?
MR. THRASHER — I would rather not mention his name.
Q. — Did you ever talk with H. M. Weber, superintendent of relief and safety ? A. — No.
Q. — Didn’t you know he was the officer with whom Chief Healey naturally would talk on such a subject ? A. No, I didn’t know it. I had information that was official that Chief Healey had asked for no removal of phones.
Mr. Healy read five letters written by Chief Healey to Mr. Weber asking him to remove phones from disorderly houses and flats. That was a surprise to Mr. Thraship.
"It looks," he said, as if I shall have to have a session with officials of the telephone company. If I had had these facts before me I certainly never should have written my report that Chief Healey had made no such applications during his term of office.
Some of the Defiant.
MR. HEALY — You say that out of 287 houses you got ride of 245 ?
MR THRASHER — Yes.
Q. — What became of the other forty-two ? A. — I have instituted injunctions against ten. Some of the others have been vacated. A few others are defiant and will be proceeded against.
Q. — If you had closed all but two or three such houses in the city I should think we were approaching the millenium. I hope you are note deceived into thinking that there are only 287 such houses in Chicago. A. — If I had several thousand police men under my command I would soon close them all up.
MR. BELL — Did you close houses operated by the Martin and Morton women? A. — We did.
Q. — What became of the other thirty or more in Capt. O’Brien’s district. A. — I have served twenty-tow with informal notice to close and nine with normal notice.
Q. — What kind of houses were they ? A. — I can’t see how Pearl Morton’s and Libby Martins’s could run without everybody in the district knowing it.
Sees Police Connivance.
Q. — Was it possible for them to run without the police knowing it " A. — I do not think so. In the last three years we have made a direct attack on 1,000 houses. I don’t believe one of them could have existed a week without the police knowing about it.
Q. — Was there any notoriety about conditions in the Twenty-second street district before Capt. Nootbaar took hold? A. — The newspapers were full of stories about vice in the district.
Q. — This was during Chief Healey’s term of office? A. — Yes.
Q. — Why was Nootbaar removed from the district ? A. — You will have to ask Chief Healey.
Q. — Was there anything to warrant his removal ? A. — Only that a lot of the old vice lords did not want him.
Mr. Healy — The fact is, Capt. Nootbaar was taken out of the district because of his own repeated requests to Chief Healey.
Tired of "Pressure"
Mr. Thrasher — I hear that Capt. Nootbaar was tired of having pressure brought to bear on him here and being asked to let up there.
Mr. Healy said Mr. Thrasher had no proof for that statement and Mr. Thrasher admitted he hadn’t.
"But I can refer you to a witness who can speak positively on the question," and Mr. Thrasher, "That is Capt. Nootbaar himself."
Mrs. Nellie K. Beale, 4806 Forrestvilla avenue, and Mrs. Nellie N. Hall, 413 East Forty-sixth place, were the last witnesses of the day. They were introduced when Assistant State’s Attorney Berger had shown that two prosecutions, one last July and another on Oct. 10, had been non-suited in the case of violations of the law by Sam Hare’s Schiller caféin Thirty-first street. The two women are members of the Women’s Church federation, which some time ago investigated dance halls. They visited the Schiller with Mrs. Beale’s husband and were served liquor after hours.