Friday, July 11, 2008

BREAKing and entering

A fellow squadmate stopped at an abandoned building to show his trainee how thieves had stripped it of copper piping and wiring. It used to be an upscale restaurant in a very pricey part of the city. The owner up and left one day and it has been sitting vacant ever since. For the past few years, the place has been vandalized, burglarized and used by transients as a high rise apartment.

As the officer and his trainee drove up to a rear door they saw the padlock had been cut. The y walked up, opened the door and looked insided. They could hear a few people talking and then heard footsteps coming down the staircase towards them. They drew their guns and waited for the burglars to come around the bend in the stairway. Soon, a man and two women appeared on the steps carrying buckets of wiring and pipes. The officers commanded them to drop the items and come down the stairs. Two of them complied but one woman ran back up the stairs to hide in the building.

The two compliant burglars were arrested and several other officers arrived to set up a perimeter around the building. We had the place surrounded and were awaiting the K-9 officer to arrive. We knew it would only be a matter of time before the police dog found her inside.

As we waited for the K-9 to arrive I heard a woman's scream from inside the building followed by a loud crash. Then we heard her yell "Help!" a few times. Believing this to be a possible ploy, we all held our positions outside the building to await for an entry team to arrive with the dog to go in and get her out. A few minutes later, however, she came crawling out covered in blood. She said she was hiding in the ceiling when the tiles gave way sending her crashing to the floor. She cut herself on debris and was complaining of neck pain. She was taken to the hospital and found to have a broken neck. I wonder how she felt lying in a hospital bed with a police officer posted next to her knowing as soon as she was discharged she would be heading for jail for felony burglary.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mentally Disabled

I'm one of the few officers on my squad that takes time to issue parking tickets. A lot of cops consider these a waste of time and not "real" police work. I admit there's more serious crimes requiring attention but when there are no calls holding and plenty of officers available for service, I find myself checking the disabled parking spaces in a few prime locations.

A former motor officer joined my training squad recently and showed me how to verify the owner of a disabled parking permit. In the past, I checked these permits (usually hung from the rear view mirror) for expiration dates. I cited several drivers using expired disabled parking permits but now I had the tools to verify if the person using the permit was the person it was actually issued to.

Last week I drove to a gourmet grocery store in an upscale neighborhood and saw a car parked in the handicapped space. I parked behind this car and walked to the front of it to check the bright blue disabled parking permit hanging behind the windshield. As I stood there, a man driving alone arrived in a brand new Lexus and parked in the disabled space right next to the one I was checking. He looked at me as he got out of his car and walked down the breezeway between the grocery store and some other retail shops.

I walked over to the Lexus and verified a current permit was hanging from the rear view mirror. I returned to my patrol car and checked on this permit. The registered owner of this permit was a woman. I ran the license plate of the Lexus and find it registered to a man with the same address as the disabled woman with the permit. I believed the driver was using his wife's disabled parking permit so I decided to wait a few minutes for him to come out.

A few minutes later he returns to his car with a small amount of dry-cleaned clothes. I approached and asked:
"Hello. Do you have a disabled parking permit?"
"There's one hanging in my window."
"Yes, I see that but it's not issued to you."
"How do you know that?!"
"I checked it in my computer and it is registered to a woman. I wanted to verify if you have a permit of your own."
"Well, no but my wife does."
"Yes, I understand that. Is your wife here now?"
"I just dropped her off."
"Here -at this property?"
"No, at home."
"OK. Can I see your ID? I'm going to issue you a citation."
"What for?!!"

He sensed what was happening and became visibly angry with me. The address listed on his vehicle registration told me he was probably a very wealthy person. The payment amount for this citation is $235.

"For parking in a designated disabled parking space without a permit."
"Oh C'MON. I didn't do anything wrong."
"You don't think it's wrong to park in a disabled parking space when you're not disabled?"
"Well I was disabled."
"Do you have a disabled parking permit in your name?"
"No, but I don't see what writing me a ticket's going to do."
"Hopefully, these citations will deter people from parking in spaces without a permit."
"I come here all the time and I parked in a regular space about 20 times over the last month."
"You probably should have continued that practice."
"I still don't think you should write me a ticket."
"Sir, if you believe you have received this citation in error you have the right to request a hearing in court."
"Yeah, I think I'll do that!! It'll be your word against mine!!"
"I would be happy to testify in court over this matter. Here's your citation. Payment instructions are on the envelope."
"What was that?"

I did not reply but stood and watched him get in his luxury car and drive away. A man walking into the store came over and thanked me for taking the time to cite handicap parking violators.

I am surprised at the number of people with blatant disregard for common courtesy. Is it laziness, apathy, arrogance, or some kind of feeling of entitlement that drives people to use expired, counterfeit, or borrowed handicap permits to park in these spaces? I've seen violators do this when there are regular parking spaces a few feet away. I'm even more surprised how upset drivers get when issued a parking ticket. I've written countless moving violations to drivers for thousands of dollars and was told, "Thanks, Officer" after handing them the tickets. But try writing a $16.00 ticket for parking in the wrong spot and you'd be amazed at the level of anger that comes pouring out.

Whatever the reason, parking violators beware: Big Brother is watching and will not hesitate to make you answer up for your wrongdoings.