Suspicious Minds

Much has been written about the sixth sense a police…

Much has been written about the sixth sense a police officer develops after some time on the job. Early in the 1980s when I was a fairly new patrol officer, I became involved in an off-duty incident that aroused my sixth sense. Exactly how I knew something was amiss—to this day, I still can’t explain.

I had wrapped up a swing shift and was heading towards home. The area I lived in was a quiet, bedroom community. It was a warm fall night—actually by then it was morning, about 1:30 a.m., as I had worked a little overtime that night. I lived at a T-intersection, and had stopped at the stop sign across the street from my house. Instead of crossing the intersection and going into my driveway, I had the gut feeling that something was not right. I sat at the deserted intersection for several seconds, and still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong. I swiveled my head, back and forth, checking out the area. All of the right vehicles were parked in the right parking places and nobody was moving about. As usual, the neighborhood was quiet, and the darkened houses confirmed that fact.

That nagging feeling continued and I elected to drive around the block to see if I could spot anything unusual. I made a left turn, continued to the end of the block, and made a right turn. Down at the end of that block I spotted a red car parked at the curb. It was occupied by a rather scruffy-looking individual sitting behind the wheel, someone who didn’t appear to belong in the area. (In our “politically correct” society today, this would be called “racial profiling”).

My options were limited. I was far from my turf, and while sitting behind the wheel for an extended period is suspicious, no crime had been committed—to my knowledge at the time. I continued around the block, taking my time, and figured to return in the opposite direction where I would attempt to get the license number of the car. Later, if I learned a neighbor was ripped off, I would be able to supply a license number…

I drove up several blocks and meandered my way back towards where I saw the red car. As soon as my headlights swept around the corner the car took off from the curb and when I caught up with it at the stoplight, I could see there was now a second subject in the car—shuffling something under the front seat. I followed the car for several blocks, noting the license number—and immediately headed back to my house. Once at the house (this was long before cellular phones) I called the local police station to advise them of the suspicious subjects, giving the vehicle description, license number, and direction of travel.

I fully expected to be brushed off, as the police are usually extremely busy and, while they can usually react after a crime was committed to take a report, often there is little (if any) time to do proactive police work and maybe prevent crime. I identified myself to the desk officer, carefully telling him that while I did not observe a crime, the circumstances were suspicious, and I gave him the information from my observations. The desk officer then asked where I lived and when I told him he blurted; “Holy cow! I live right behind you. Hold the line for a minute.” A couple of minutes later he came back on the line, informing me the red car had been recently carjacked from an adjoining city. Later, I learned they returned and performed an armed robbery of a donut shop in the area. Unfortunately, while they weren’t arrested that night, I believe my actions prevented a neighbor from losing their car, belongings, or being terrorized, robbed, or worse…

Why did I do what I did, instead of going home and enjoying a cold beer before going to bed? To this day, I still don’t know. The red car was way beyond my line-of-sight—about a full city block from my house. I saw nothing unusual, nor did I see anybody moving in the area. I had to turn two corners and drive an additional block before I first spotted the old car. Maybe it was fate.

— JB, CA

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