The Woodhaven native would go on to spend over 20 years on the NYPD, playing crucial roles in the investigations of the College Point Massacre and a jewel heist that involved the Royal Family of England.
Berke wrote a book about his career entitled “6 More Dead,” and today makes his living as a private investigator.
On Wednesday, March 29, Berke will come back to his hometown to discuss his career at a meeting of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.
The meeting takes place at Emanuel United Church of Christ at Woodhaven Boulevard and 91st Avenue and starts at 1 p.m. Admission is free, refreshments will be served, and everyone is welcome to attend.
“Woodhaven was unlike any other place in the world,” Berke says. “There is something about Woodhaven that’s special.”
He points out that things could have turned out very different for him and the friends he grew up with.
“We weren’t the best kids, that’s for sure,” he says. “We hung out at the schoolyard a lot. That’s where I met my first girlfriend, where I had my first beer.
“As I got older, I hung out at Paddywack’s for a year or two,” he continues. “I hung out in the park a lot. Pretty much we were everywhere.”
He joined the NYPD in 1981, and started his 20-plus-year career patrolling the tough streets of Brownsville. It was as a detective investigating the attack on a young woman that he found himself at the center of one of the most horrific mass murder scenes in our borough’s history.
The young girl lay in a hospital bed recovering from emergency surgery, her throat slit from ear to ear, unable to speak. Berke was with her, trying to find out who had done this to her when the young woman struggled to write down three words that turned the seasoned detective’s blood cold: “6 more dead.”
Detective Berke soon found himself in an apartment in College Point, gun drawn, going room to room, not knowing if the next corner or next open door would reveal a dead body or a mad-dog killer.
In what became known as the “College Point Massacre,” six people were found brutally murdered in that apartment, and the ensuing investigation and quest for justice resulted in the capture of three men who were convicted and put away for life. (The young woman recovered and now leads a happy, normal life.)
Berke’s book is available through Amazon and tells stories from his days patrolling the streets of the toughest neighborhoods in New York City to the upper-class society of Manhattan.
The book also lays out the investigation into the Inca Gemstone Robbery that led to him being the first NYPD detective ever to testify in a court of law in England.
The case, which involved insurance fraud and jewel smuggling and the Royal Family, was a media sensation around the world, and Woodhaven’s Detective Berke was at the center of it.
Today, Berke is a partner in a private investigation firm (woodwardberke.com) with another former NYPD detective. Despite all of the years that have passed, Detective Berke is still attached to the place where he grew up.
“It’s funny,” he says. “All my dreams take place in Woodhaven. I’ve been out of there forever, and yet every dream I have I’m in Woodhaven.”
Next week, Berke will return to his hometown to discuss his rich and interesting career. If you’ve ever been curious about the life of a private investigator or an NYPD detective, come out to the WCHS meeting next Wednesday.