Monday, January 09, 2006

Ladies: Beware of cop impersonators!

Ok, ok…the official word is in: My mother found out about the “Does this make my bum look big?” article, and now I’m in trouble, lol. Her official word on the subject: “Loy, that is so mean!” But I got a laugh, too, so maybe it isn’t so bad. :-)

However, I still may need some brownie points, so here is a public service announcement for female readers: recent statistics reveal that cop impersonation is on the rise.

1,000 cases of crooks posing as police

Some police impersonators are relatively harmless, just flashing a fake badge to get out of a ticket.
Others, though, use their badges to pull over and harass women.
Or rape them.
Some shake down immigrants for cash.
Still others prey on children.

Throughout the Chicago area, more than 1,000 such incidents have been reported in the past three years. Law enforcement officials suspect many police impersonator crimes are never reported because the victims are too afraid or confused about what happened.

Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Times reveals a disturbing trend of criminals using badges and uniforms. Rapists, robbers and wannabes flash badges at traffic stops and at the front door, perpetrating crime with fake credentials.

Amazingly enough, there have been 1,000 reported cases in Illinois alone during the last three years!

This rise is attributed to the ease with which criminals can now purchase badges online. In fact, the concern is so great that Illinois recently passed legislation making it a crime to purchase police badges on the internet.

Breaking down the statistics over the last three years, it averages out to almost 1 fake-cop incident per day in Illinois alone! When I saw the article, I was somewhat shocked. This is a lot, I thought. But then my mind when to a time where I was “pulled over” by a friend as a joke, and I realized just how quickly this kind of thing can happen: If it is dusk or a little dark out, and markings can’t be easily seen, it is far too easy to flash a light or a badge and create vulnerable situations for citizens.

The implications are troubling, especially for women. And the lessons should be well-taken:

  • Familiarize yourself with the pattern of state and local police lights.
  • If you are on a lonely stretch of highway and the flashing lights don’t fit that pattern, don’t pull over.
  • If you are pulled over by anyone that acts suspicious, drive to the nearest police station, fire department or public building, obeying all traffic laws if possible.
  • If you are on foot and a person flashes a badge at you, asking for privileged information or creating a vulnerable moment, walk quickly toward the nearest crowd or safe context.
  • If an officer is in plain clothes, ask for badge and identification.
  • If stopped by a semi-marked car, ask for identification and keep your door locked.
  • If at home, keep the privacy of your home intact – do not offer information or permit someone in just because of a badge or uniform.

These are just a few ideas, but the main thing is to keep your head about you and be sensitive to warning signals.

And, who knows? This awareness could save you in the future…maybe save a life or valued asset!

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