Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Once upon a time, there was a fine young Police Officer named Tony. Tony went on to become a Mucky Mucky, holding high rank in one of Washington State's largest departments, but at one time, he was but a lowly patrol Officer.

And back then, he invented one of the coolest and most effective graveyard shift tools known to copkind: AutoProwl. And now… The rest of the story.

A lot of cops like graveyard shift, most often for some combination of three primary reasons:

1. It’s a very target rich environment, and
2. You don’t deal with a lot of the bullshit Barking Neighbor calls, and
3. There’s no admin. staff around late at night.

These are all fine reasons to work 10:00 p.m. to 6 a.m., as far as I’m concerned.

Now, the downside, depending on thee size of the city you work in, is that things can get very, very quiet from around 2:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., and… You can get really bored, or fight falling asleep, or do dumb stuff, or… You can AutoProwl.

Now, diligent cops will be working during this time period, because, there is shit goin’ on. In the darkest, quietest hours, burglars are plying their trade, and catching people in the act of breaking into places trying to steal stuff is very, very cool – Way up there on the AdrenoMeter.

Some cops like to depend on alarms, but that’s a pretty low ratio catch, frankly. Only a percentage of alarms are silent, and if they’re not, you ain’t gonna catch nobody by the time you get there. I got a couple from silent alarms in my day, but it’s not as much fun as it could be: See, alarm calls at night mean that the K9 Officer and his pooch are gonna be top dogs, and you’re either following them around as they work, or watching the perimeter, something like that… It’s not nearly as much fun as catching them in the act yourself.

Some cops will do the cruise around their areas, looking at businesses and buildings they think are likely targets and checking them through the wee hours, but if you’re driving along shining your spot light on back doors and roof access ladders, all you’re doing is telling the bad guys you’re there. This method also is prone, consciously or not, to pattern building, and that’s not good: If the bad guys want to nail Business X, and they know you go by there between 3:00 and 3:30 pretty much every morning, guess when they’re not going to break in?

So whataya do if you wanna be cool and catch bad guys? You AutoProwl, buddy. Thanks to Officer Tony, you AutoProwl. How does it work? Easy: See, normally, if you’re in a cruiser checking your area, you drive along on the correct side of the road, lights on, using your spot, all the stuff that makes you obvious as hell. What Tony figured out is to use your prowl car and not be obvious as hell and it’s brilliant. AutoProwl works on this wise and proven concept: If you behave, move, and locate yourself in places where people don’t expect to see you, they won’t see you. What, you ask? What’s this semi-mystical bullshit you’re spouting? It’s true gang: Take as a for instance, the point at which we first initiated a bike patrol. Buzz Leake and I were the first two full time bike cops: What we quickly discovered is that we could ride right up to just about anything and the bad guys didn’t see us. Their cop radar did not yet include looking for cops on bicycles, so cops on bicycles were just cyclists, not cops. We drove right up to people selling dope, trying to break into places, etc, and they looked right at us, but they didn’t see us – It didn’t register. That’s how AutoProwl works.

Here’s what you do: Let’s say you’re working a nice office and industrial area with lots of burglary targets. When you AutoProwl, you kill all the lights on your car, (Including brake lights), and you drive on the wrong side of the street, (Maybe even on the sidewalk), and you go real slow, maybe 5 miles an hour, max. Now, you are behaving in a way that folks are not used to seeing cops and cop cars do, and they will not see you.

One of the first times I AutoProwled, I came around the corner, (On the wrong side of the street, dark, going slow), and the guy walking across the street at 3:00 a.m. with a futon over his shoulder, (Coming from the Futon Factory where they make ‘em), looked right at me, and kept walking toward me… He got maybe ten feet away before he registered, dropped the futon and ran. It sucks hiding in a blackberry patch and getting dragged out of it by a pissed off German Shepherd...

Once we had a long, long string of burglaries by the same guy, a serial burglar, who's M.O. was yanking safes out of businesses – he was really racking up a long winning streak… Until my friend Lou was AutoProwling along one night and came upon a running vehicle, a bashed in back door to a contracting business, and a safe halfway between the two. Arrest made the next day.

It's much more fun than playing perimeter: AutoProwl, coming soon to a patrol area near you.

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