Saturday, January 19, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Midnight Madness, Part 3


Criminals prefer to operate at night, using the dark to cover their activities. The disadvantage for them is that there is typically not a crowd of people in which to hide. When perps start to move, we have a good chance of spotting them.


“Man with a gun.” Those are scary words. Sometimes the threat comes from someone on the roof of an apartment building. Criminals like to use the roofs in New York City because they can often go from one apartment house to another apartment building over the adjoining rooftops.


What goes up must come down, however. Often members of our unit would charge up the stairs and flush the criminal from the rooftop of that building so that he ran either down the fire escape to an alley or ran across to another roof, but eventually he had to come down to street level. Often, that’s just where I’d be.


Speaking of rooftops reminds me of a series of robberies that were being perpetrated by an Albanian gang at strip malls in our area. The criminals would cut a hole in the roof, climb down into the store, and steal whatever they could find.


We had reason to believe that we knew the target of the next heist. We understood how they were getting around burglar alarm systems. Similar to the ruse used by thieves in the jewel-snatch movie Topkapi, the burglars would cause the burglar alarms to go off erroneously.


Typically, the alarm was tripped, and officers would then respond to the alarm call. They would check out the perimeter, doors, windows, and gate. If all seemed secure, they would finalize the job to the dispatcher as “secured from ground level” [10-98], indicating that the alarm call was completed and they were available for the next assignment. After a few repetitions of this, the storeowners typically would turn off the burglar alarms so that they would not be charged a fee from the alarm company. Turning off the alarm allowed the burglars to continue without any fear that the police would be called to the location.


We saw this pattern of false alarms developing at one store in a strip mall, and decided to set up a surprise party for our interlopers. At closing time we made ourselves comfortable in the store, and, sure enough, between 3am to 4am we heard the sound of a drill on the roof. The thieves were drilling a small hole in the roof so that they could use a saw blade to cut themselves a large opening through which they entered the store.


Not only were we in the store, but we had back-up police units outside the store. When the burglars “dropped in” to collect some loot, they got an unpleasant surprise. We threw them a “perp party” and put them in cuffs.

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