Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Surprised in the night

Capt. Joe Wright, who normally runs the City on the late shift, has taken a few days off this week. Capt. Genelle Moore filled in for him on Sunday, and I've taken the late shift from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM the last couple of nights. I did a few nights early this year, but in the mild weather, it's a lot more fun.

Yesterday was really hopping. We had three significant burglaries in rapid succession, including one at Cycle Works and another at Office Max. We needed Beersie at three different places at once. The Office Max burglary was particularly interesting, in that the assistant manager was actually still in the store when the burglar broke out the glass. The thief was in the process of trying to remove three digital cameras from their tethers at the camera counter when the assistant manager, hearing the glass break, came out onto the floor and saw him struggling with the cabled cameras. "May I help you?", he asked. Now that's customer service.

Today was slightly less eventful, but fun nonetheless. As I was briefing the shift at 11:00 PM before they hit the street, I pointed out a string of pumpkin smashing that has been occurring in southeast Lincoln. Nice folks like my wife have a habit of leaving ammo laying around on their porches to facilitate this seasonal crime. In the past few days, vandals have smashed several mailboxes and car windows with the orange projectiles, causing several hundred dollars of damage.

Around 2:00 AM this morning a citizen called about a group of teens engaged in such activity, and since it was comparatively slow, a perimeter was quickly thrown up in the vicinity by about four officers. It happened to be pretty close to my neighborhood. I parked a few blocks north of the reported location and went quietly walking down a recreational trail that Tonja and I frequently use. A few hundred yards down the trail, I came upon two 14 year olds crouched down by a tree. They were watching a perimeter patrol car parked with lights flashing along Pine Lake Road on the opposite side of a pond. Their attention diverted by the festivities, I sneaked up and surprised them. Not, however, quite as much as I surprised their parents, who never expected the chief of police to be at their door at 3:00 AM.

While I was outwitting two ninth graders on a sneak-out, Sgt. Mike Bassett was handling some real crime with a tenth grader. He spotted a car parked in front of an apartment building where we have lots of problems. Four people were either in or around the car, and he found this a little unusual at this hour of the day, so he got out to investigated. One of the people who was standing outside the car made some furtive movements after walking around to the open rear door on the passenger side, and Mike located a loaded .22 revolver stuffed under the seat where he bent down. The 15 year old subject was busted for carrying a concealed weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Every time I work the late shift, I am impressed at how our officers are constantly looking for suspicious activity. They spend their spare time (sometimes a rare commodity) moving around stealthily and watchfully. One night when I was sleuthing on foot in Densmore Park, looking for my annual arrest. I was startled in the dark by another officer who was sneaking up the same recreational path I had been sneaking down. The late shift officers often find open doors, burglaries, suspects breaking into cars, vandals, and so forth. Working the overnight shift is tough. It interferes with a normal social and family life, the human body isn't well adapted for nocturnal functioning, and you're constantly exposed to the most dangerous and unsettling types of human behavior. You'd be hard pressed, though, to find a group of more enthusiastic police officers who seem to enjoy their work as much.


Anonymous said...

You said the parents of the 14 year olds were surprised to see you on your doorstep. Do these parents even know that their child is out at that time of the night? That always bugs me when I read stories like this in the paper, how do parents not know where there kids or, or what they should be doing on a certain night.

Anonymous said...

I bet you gave those pumpkin smashers the scare of their life.

Does the department have night-vision goggles? Do you think it'd be helpful having the goggles or not worth the cost in regards to usefulness? If I won the powerball, i'd treat each night officer to a pair.

Anonymous said...

I hope they all have NV gear! For bang-for-the-buck, Gen 1 NV monoculars from Russia can be had brand new for only about 200-250 bucks these days, excellent for any neighborhood watch program (or rural acreage owner, or even a tech gadget fan). They work amazingly well, especially if you're Irish, because everything is in shades of green.

Gen 2 is of course superior, smaller, more durable (no intensifier tube to break), and less sensitive to bright light overload, but at 6-10x the cost per unit.

Anonymous said...

Good job Chief. You and your team keep up all the good work you do

Tom Casady said...

Good morning..or evening...or whatever. Day time sleep has my conniculator discombobulated.

Anon 7:33-
My pair was the standard sleep-over-sneak-out. 14 year olds have been pulling this for ever. Plato's son did the same thing. The parents were mortified. Both of these boys were convinced that they would be killed. The power of a committed involved parent is far, far, greater than that of a police chief. The more concerning situations are those in which you encounter kids whose parents have absolutely no control whatsoever, or those who are so addicted or clueless that they could care less.

Anon 1:10-
Not every officer has NV equipment, but we have a dozen monoculars--two for each team. You can check one out on your shift, if so inclined. I've found that they are not quite as useful as you might think in the urban environment, due to high ambient light levels. Pretty nice to have on the fringe of the City, though, and around parks. Fox and possums were plentiful last night in Holmes park and deer were all over the far Southwest corner of the City. I spotlighted a herd of 19 at 1st and Pioneers.

Anon 5:50-

Sounds like you might own one of those Ruskie NVs. Our's are 3g ITT scopes. The SWAT Team may have some fancier stuff (they've got all sorts of gear I'm only slightly aware of).

Anonymous said...

I hope your readers appreciate how rare it is for a chief of police to work a night shift or any shift. You've mentioned a few times how you frequently take a patrol shift or direct traffic or otherwise descend from the twelfth floor--this is true leadership by example, and its something chiefs everywhere should take a lesson from. I'd bet that at least 80% of America's police chiefs never make an arrest after becoming chief.

Tom Casady said...

Frequently? Let's make it rarely. A handful of times per year, but nontheless, I always enjoy it. The annual arrest has become my goal. You really have to feel for the poor schmuck who gets himself nabbed by the bumbling police chief trying to fill his quota of ONE.

Anonymous said...

For clarification with LPDspeak; the Chief does not descend from the twelfth floor. They used to emerge from mahoganey row when we resided at 233 S. 10th St. but now the Chief emanates from the 'West Wing'.

Anonymous said...

They don't call them "3G" for nothing! In addition to being 3G, that's also their price tag. I imagine the SWAT TOE includes some tasty thermal imaging gear.

Anyway, lacking a spare $12K for jazzy thermal gear, I bought a cheapie, a Yukon Sea Wolf. Not super-tiny, but small enough for rain parka pocket, rubber-armored, very water-resistant (and it floats). See all across an unlit surburan vacant lot with only a new moon and starlight.

As a bonus, you get to see four-legged nocturnal wildlife too, not just the two-legged variety. Some little critters really mill around after the sun goes down.

Brian said...

Night shift always has the best stories in the public service field!

p.s. I'm really digging your blogs! Thanks!