Crime pays for mug-shot magazine’s publisher
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org December 10, 2012 6:04PM
The front page of Nab Shot.
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:19AM
We’ve all heard that crime doesn’t pay.
The truth is some vendors are experiencing a boon because of the homicides in this city.
For example, a storefront industry has popped up to provide R.I.P. T-shirts and custom-designed obituaries.
Last week, I stopped at a gas station on the South Side and a quirky magazine caught my eye. Nab Shot is a compilation of mug shots and bills itself as “Chicago’s Premier Crime Stopping Publication.”
For $1, you can look at people arrested in a two-week period for offenses ranging from retail theft and prostitution to DUI and first-degree murder.
Lidia Kuzniar, the woman who is accused of stalking Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina, was featured on the front page of the Nov. 30 edition.
As you can imagine, Jeff, the publisher, gets regular death threats, which is why he asked that I not publish his last name.
After only four months, he’s unloading 5,000 copies at local gas stations, liquor and convenience stores.
“It is showing tremendous and rapid growth. It’s a cash cow,” he said.
Jeff also publishes Salon News, USA, a slick magazine that publishes six times a year and targets the black hair and spa industry, but it is Nab Shot that brings in the money.
“I really don’t understand it too much, just like I don’t understand why people love Jerry Springer,” Jeff said. “One guy bought 20 copies of the paper because his mug shot was in it.”
But he also believes Nab Shot helps fight crime.
“What I am doing is exposing criminals and people that have been arrested. Bottom line, I am just putting everybody’s business out there,” he said.
That idea is actually a throwback to the “Evening Whirl,” a weekly publication Ben Thomas started in St. Louis in 1938. Thomas developed a strong following by dishing up sordid details of crime, scandal and gossip going on in the black community.
“Back in the ’60s, the Whirl was a crime-fighting newspaper and it was the weirdest thing. The only thing in it was who owed Thomas money, who got caught prostituting, what preacher got caught up in some motel with his mistress. It was that kind of paper,” Jeff said.
“The thing took off and made the guy a millionaire,” he said.
Thomas died in 2005 at age 94.
In its heyday, the Evening Whirl sold 50,000 copies a week. Although the publication still exists, it is now a much gentler and kinder version.
Jeff understands why some people may get upset about Nab Shot even though the information is on the Internet for anyone to view.
“The only thing I am doing is putting it in the form of print and making it available. But I get quite a few threats. When you do something like this, you’ve got to be careful, because some guy’s employer can get a hold of the publication and see that he was arrested for DUI,” he said.
“But my whole attitude is if you don’t do wrong, you won’t show up in Nab Shot.”
No one’s exempt, he said.
No one, not even state Sen. Donne Trotter, who was arrested last week and charged with trying to board a plane with a weapon? I asked.
“If I got busted for something, I would put my own mug shot in there,” he answered. “You’re going to see Jesse Jackson Jr. in there if he is arrested,” he added.
“Don’t get me wrong, I have compassion. Just like sex offenders — I am careful. If a guy is 18 and the girl is 16 or 17 and it is a case where the mother finds out and has the guy arrested, I won’t put his mug shot in there because it would ruin his life. But a 70-year-old guy with a 9-year-old deserves to be exposed.”
Despite the controversial nature of the publication, Jeff argues it has already had an impact.
“I do this one section on prostitution called ‘Chicago’s ugliest hookers and the men who pay them.’ I think it is doing some good because I am running out of hookers,” he said.
“I’ve got to find some from somewhere. People love that section.”