Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dumb Criminals – Job Security for Cops

My fellow police officer and I maneuvered our marked patrol cars through traffic until we were both behind the white Mitsubishi. The three subjects in the car (one man, two women) were suspects in a brazen shoplift from a toy store. Witnesses provided an accurate tag number and direction of travel, so the car was easy to find.

The first radio message said store personnel witnessed the theft of a large quantity of children’s clothes. By the time we pulled the car over, the officer at the store said the witness was only partially sure of what he saw. After behaving “suspiciously” in the aisles of the store, the suspects left “much fatter” than when they arrived, according to the clerk. They also matched the description of other suspects in another store of the same name. Because of the circumstances, the retail manager decided to simply trespass the individuals from his store.

All three suspects had extensive arrest histories, including prison time and county jail time. We looked at the man and told him they were being trespassed. Then we added, “as long as the stolen property is returned.”

Well, after looking at all the stuff in the back seat, we figured we’d give the ruse a try.

The man was about forty, and he looked at us suspiciously, as if we would arrest him as soon as he gave us the clothes. We said, no, we won’t arrest you; just give us back what you stole. He said, "It’s a deal…"

The guy reached into the car and pulled out the clothes they did steal from the toy store. I noticed several other bags in the back seat filled with more clothing. Continuing our bluff, I said, "You understand that if we search the car and find more stolen property, the deal is off."

With that, the guy pulled two more bags out of the car that were stuffed with stolen clothes, this time from a second store. In all, hundreds of dollars in stolen property were recovered. The circumstances didn’t permit us to arrest them, so we used a little "trickery" to recover what we could. Sadly, neither store could or would prosecute, so the bad guys got away with only the trespasses.

What these experienced crooks didn’t know was that all of their personal information, their photos, pictures of the Mitsubishi, etc. went to our intelligence officer. He will prepare an intelligence bulletin for other local law enforcement agencies. Using photo lineups, these thieves will surely be identified for other similar crimes. Justice will prevail, and they'll end up in jail again - right where they belong.

I asked the guy, "Didn’t you just get out of prison?"

"Yeah," he mumbled. "I did eighteen months."

"You got kids?" I inquired.

"Two," he answered.

"Are you out of your mind?" I asked. "Are you trying to go back to prison? Do you realize how long a sentence you’ll get next time? For what, stealing clothes?"

"I know,” he replied. "I guess I’m just stupid."

No response from me was necessary.

Charles M. Grist

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