Last year, Capital published a series of stories by Kevin Heldman about the Albanian crime scene in New York. In the course of reporting them, Kevin talked to more than a hundred gang members, law-enforcement officials and civilians in New York and Michigan, and told the story not only of an increasingly prominent criminal subculture but of the hardworking, often misunderstood immigrant community that spawned it.
His reporting took him inside homes and nightclubs and law offices and prisons, and the details he came back with were remarkable. Possibly the greatest testament to the reporting and writing that Kevin did was that his access got consistently, dramatically better as the series went on. This was zero-sum, life-and-death stuff involving people who for the most part were not at all accustomed to media scrutiny. But they kept letting Kevin in for more.
Based on that series, Kevin got a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to continue his reporting in Albania. He went, and found a place that was both foreign and familiar, from the street-food vendor who used to live in Jackson Heights to the bar owner who allegedly played a key role in a war between two Albanian local crews that ended in the murder of a would-be intermediary, whose body was found near the B.Q.E.
Kevin’s back now. Here’s his first piece based on the trip. We’ll have more from him on this topic and others in the coming weeks.
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