September 21, 2007

Trust No One

Even the cops.  They might not be who you think they are....

The Los Angeles Police Department said Friday morning that officers had arrested a man who allegedly impersonated a police officer and robbed an elderly couple at knifepoint in their Reseda townhouse.


When the robber knocked on the couple's door, he identified himself as an officer and asked about an auto accident that they had been involved in earlier in the day. The robber pulled out a knife when he was asked to show identification.

What the article doesn't say, but which was reported live on KNBC's Today in LA program this morning, is that the thief didn't just identify himself as a cop.  He was wearing a dark blue uniform similar to LAPD, and came to the door posing as a traffic officer.  When the husband got nervous and asked for ID, he reached into his pocket and pulled a knife instead of credentials.

At first LAPD were afraid that the couple might have been targeted by information leaked from their office, however (and of course they didn't just come out and say this) it seems that the thief is linked to the accident.  What the police ARE saying is that the arrest is a DIRECT result of follow up on the accident investigation by Traffic Division.

Clearly this was a well-planned criminal endeavor.  The purchase of the uniform indicates that much.  So watch out.  There are assholes out there who will hit your car, get your information and come to your house late at night to rob you, posing as the police.

Some tips:
1.  If the police knock on your door, ALWAYS ask for Badge and ID.  A real policeman will generally offer it before you ask, or will hand it over without question.

2.  If you are still unsure, ask the policeman for a moment to verify the credentials.  It's ok to call 911 (or your local PD number if you have it handy) and verify the name and badge number as an on-duty officer assigned to come to your home.

3. If you are unsure that the car attempting to pull you over is a real policeman (unfortunately there were a number of sexual assaults in LA in the past with guys posing as cops...), put on your flashers, and get to a secure, well-lighted place with people around, such as a gas station, etc.  A real cop won't be put off when you explain your concern for your safety, and you just might deter a bad guy.

4.  If you are in an accident, insist the police come to the scene.  In many jurisdictions, including City of Los Angeles, the police have a system for collecting information from ALL parties, and keeping that confidential.  All the parties get is a five-digit case number, which, along with the officer's name and the date/time of the accident can be used by the INSURANCE company to get the accident report and the parties' personal information.  Actually, anyone with that information can get a copy of the report, but it costs around $20, a bad investment for a crook, generally.  Furthermore, if something like what happened to the couple in the story happens to you, if the police come to the accident scene, they already know where to find the bad guys.

Posted by caltechgirl at September 21, 2007 08:49 AM | TrackBack

That is horrible. Thanks for the tips.

Posted by: Margi at September 21, 2007 02:29 PM

Most important, remember never, ever, ever let a cop into your house for any reason unless they have a warrant or you called them there. And even if you called them, it's best to talk to them outside.

Posted by: Contagion at September 21, 2007 03:10 PM

We have had several cases in New England. In one case a "cop" pulled over a girl. He had the flashing lights, uniform, badge and everything and then he raped her. You cannot trust anyone.

Posted by: Lukie at September 21, 2007 04:39 PM

Wow- thats scary stuff. But you give good advice to counter the bad guys.

Posted by: Raven at September 21, 2007 05:52 PM

I agree about the warrant and if they say they just want to ask me a few questions and refuse to tell me what it is about I will tell them to fuck off until I see my lawyer...

Posted by: GUYK at September 22, 2007 06:06 AM

if you don't see a squad car and a real uniform, don't open the door. If the guy says he's a detective or undercover, tell him to call a black & white and some uniforms.

Posted by: Mark at September 22, 2007 12:34 PM