Chief Says Law Balks His War on Vice

by Archivist on January 15, 2017

L. H. Beck, foreman of Fulton County Grand Jury that is investigating vice conditions in Atlanta, the Felder bribery charges and the famous dictograph row. Mr. Beck is the one who launched the probe of reports that vice exists here.

L. H. Beck, foreman of Fulton County Grand Jury that is investigating vice conditions in Atlanta, the Felder bribery charges and the famous dictograph row. Mr. Beck is the one who launched the probe of reports that vice exists here.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, June 6th, 1913

Resort in Spring Street Flourishes While Injunction Prevents Police Interference

It became known Friday that Chief of Police James L. Beavers made the startling charge before the vice investigating Grand Jury that the courts of the State of Georgia made it impossible for him to close the most notorious resort that had ever operated in Atlanta.

S. C. Glass, a member of the Grand Jury, who was not present at the session Thursday when it was announced the vice probe had been concluded, said Friday that he, too, knew of the existence of the place and would demand at the next session that the tribunal go deeper into vice conditions and take some decisive action.

Mr. Glass made the emphatic statement that conditions were worse than they were before the restricted district was closed and that it was up to the jury to do something to relieve the situation. He said the Philadelphia ministers had not far exaggerated the street evil; that the respectable community was being encroached upon by houses of ill fame, and that women of questionable character walked the streets of Atlanta daily brushing elbows with the wife and school girl.

Resort is in Spring Street.

The house in question is in Spring Street. The place was raided several months ago. Recorder Broyles ordered the woman held for the City Court and asked Chief Beavers to have her moved from that locality. The woman’s lawyers applied for and secured an injunction from the Fulton Superior Court restraining the police from moving her. The restraining order still is in effect.

The case of Mrs. N. P. Powell, of 95 Spring Street, was on trial before Judge Andrew Calhoun, in the City Court, Friday. Chief Beavers, who appeared against her, stated that the house was still being operated in violation of the law, but that he was powerless to act. He said the woman, if found guilty, would pay a fine and go back and he could do nothing but make a new case, which, he said, would be several weeks in getting to court.

Despite what Chief Beavers said was overwhelming evidence, and that statement of Grand Juryman Glass, the woman told a sobbing story of ignorance of any law having been violated and declared her innocence of the charges.

Mr. Glass commented at some length on the vice probe.

Chief Says He Is Powerless.

“Time and again,” he said, “I have seen men and women go into the Spring Street house. I have on several occasions called the attention of Chief Beavers to the situation. He explains that he is powerless to act because of an injunction from the Superior Court.

“This house is not the only one. I know of some few others, and I will ask the Grand Jury to look into it thoroughly. I do not think this thing should end, as all such investigations do, by a formal presentment delivered to a judge and having it pigeonhole for ‘future action.’ It was not so very long ago that a certain hotel was raided by the police. Somebody ‘higher up’ stopped the proceedings and nothing ever came of it.

“As to the street evil, anyone can see it. I do not mean that every man who goes on the street will be accosted. Only an Adonis would be accosted 21 times on one afternoon, but I do say that women of this character walk the streets of Atlanta every day. They live in the apartment houses, hotels and even in the best communities. Some of them live now just about like they did before they were run out of the restricted district.

“It is a large undertaking for a Grand Jury, but the time is ripe for it, and it should not be done at all unless it is going to be thorough.”

“Whatever evidence has been laid before the Grand Jury, I am confident that vice conditions in Atlanta were not shown to be worse now than before the segregated district was wiped out,” said Chief Beavers Friday in commenting on the vice probe in progress before the Grand Jury.

The chief said that he did not know the significance of the announcement that the probe would be dropped. He was sure, however, that the jurors would learn that conditions had been improved steadily from the time the anti-vice crusade began.

“When the investigation closes,” he said, “the public will be satisfied. The truth will have been sifted from the falsehood and we will have the estimate of the city’s condition from a reliable source.

“City Not Spotless Yet.”

“Conditions now, in my opinion, are incalculably better than before the houses were closed. I do not mean to say that Atlanta morally is a ‘spotless town.’ It is not, and for the very good reason that it is impossible to clean a city thoroughly in the short period of eight months.

“The work is continuing, however, and it is safe to promise a better city next year than it was this year, and so on into the future so long as the crusade is kept up.”

Foreman L. H. Beck announced that the probe had been completed along the line outlined in the jury’s charge and would not be carried further unless members of the jury decided to do so at the next meeting.

Few witnesses, he said, who had been summoned to testify on this question had had an opportunity to give testimony.

No Specific Places Discussed.

The announcement that two members, and probably more, would insist on a searching probe, would indicate that following the meeting Tuesday, witnesses “excused until further notice” will be revealed and the question taken up again.

It became known also that the jury’s probe had dealt only with the existence of vice in a general sense, and that no specific places or indictments had been discussed.

Witnesses are under subpena, however, who it is said will give startling evidence of the existence of vice along more specific lines.

The Felder-Lanford pictograph controversy probe was not completed at the session Friday and an especial effort will be made by Colonel Thomas B. Felder and Chief of Detectives N. A. Lanford to have a special session one day next week to consider no other question.

Felder Promises Sensation.

Both parties have made a personal appeal to the jury to probe the affair to the bottom, and it is more than likely their request will be granted.

In taking up the pictograph case, Colonel Felder will demand that the jury probe deep into his charges of corruption in the detective department. This will bear more directly on the vice question and probably will be taken up before the dictograph case.

The next development of any importance will be the statement of Colonel Felder to be issued Sunday, in which he states he positively will substantiate every charge he has made.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, June 6th 1913, “Chief Says Law Balks His War on Vice,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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