7/11/2007Unmarked Police Cars Encourage Impersonators
The increased use of unmarked police vehicles is making it easier for criminals to impersonate lawmen.
In the space of a week, at least six people, primarily women, were assaulted, robbed or intimidated by individuals posing as police officers behind the wheel of unmarked cars. Police forces around the country have increasingly turned to the use of unidentifiable vehicles to gain an edge against motorists when issuing traffic citations. Virginia State Police, for example, use an unremarkable grey minivan to pull over motorists. Maryland State Troopers use a common Ford SUV for the same purpose. As a result, criminals are finding it easier than ever to impersonate lawmen.
At 9:20pm in Fairfax County, Virginia yesterday, a man in a black SUV equipped with blue flashing lights pulled over a 35-year-old woman on Interstate 495 near the Dulles Toll Road. The woman immediately called 911 when the six foot tall, 200 pound man refused to identify which of the many federal, state, city or county police agencies in the area he belonged to. The suspect is still at large.
In other cases, the consequences are more serious. A Dallas, Texas motorist found herself being groped by last Friday by a man in a T-shirt that said "Police." At around 3am she pulled over for an unmarked, dark sedan near the intersection of Kiest Boulevard and Westmoreland Street. She got out of her car on orders to be searched, and things got worse from there.
Similarly, a female motorist pulled over for an unmarked car with a flashing blue light on Route 24 in Randolph, Massachusetts on Sunday. As soon as she followed the instruction to get out of her car, the impostor assaulted her.
Men have also fallen victim to the tactic. An impostor wearing a hat that said "Police" drove around asking Hispanic men for their identification -- and wallets -- in Mountain View, California. When the victims handed it over, the wallet was returned without their cash. The last reported incident was July 3, but victims in this case are reluctant to report the crime to the real police.
Other drivers were able to get away in time. In Ishpeming, Michigan a stocky man described as in his 40s and between 5 foot 9 inches and 5 foot 11 inches used an old navy blue police car with a flashing light to pull over a woman on Division Street at 9:26pm yesterday. The man took her license, wrote down her personal information, then told her she could go.
The tables only turned on Robert Lane who reportedly was the man behind the wheel in an SUV with flashing police lights in Bohemia, New York. When an off-duty New York Police detective cut him off on the Sunrise Highway, Lane flashed a small badge. The detective then flashed a real badge at Lane and summoned police assistance to arrest the twenty-five-year-old alleged impostor. Lane faces arraignment today.