Confessions of a Police Detective

police detectiveAs a detective in a large southern California city assigned to property crimes, I can sit and think of dozens of incidents, crimes and perpetrators that will stick with me forever.

One incident I always tell about at parties is once of my fastest case wrap-ups ever. It's all about the arrest of a burglary suspect and the recovery of the stolen property all on the same day it was reported.

I was sent to follow up on the reported burglary of a grammar school over the long Memorial Day weekend. The suspect(s) were able to gain entrance into the school and steal thousands of dollars of computer equipment by breaking windows of a classroom that had not been alarmed yet. In addition to the computer items, there was a great deal of candy, cookies and ice cream stolen from the cafeteria.

It was easy to figure that the crooks were students at the school, or at the very least ex-students with siblings in the know. Figuring on this fact, I asked the principal the question that was the key to breaking the case. If she were a gambler, who in the school were her top three candidates for this mini-crime spree? She named three possibilities, and then narrowed that to one name when I pressed her further. Her choice was a sixth grader who was barely making his grades, from a broken, dysfunctional home, who lived close enough to carry items home quickly -- especially considering all that ice cream, which would need refrigeration ASAP.

I decided to just go to the young man's house and speak to the parent. The mother was focused on the television, watching "her stories," and gave me permission to search the boy's room down the hall, muttering as I went, "What did he do now?"

When I opened the door I immediately saw a stack of computers on the floor, along with cases of cookies, candies and pastries and I knew somehow that there was a cache of ice cream somewhere in the house amongst their frozen foods. I snapped several Polaroids and had the property van come and process the scene.

I returned to the school and advised the principal that she should buy a lottery ticket as her instincts were right on. I showed her the photos and said the school's stolen items would be returned after we processed them. The principal called for the lad out of class and had him come into the room with us to talk.

I told him that I had heard that he was "the man" at that school and that I needed someone like him to help me find the people who burglarized the school. Also, if he could recover the items stolen he would get a huge reward and a commendation from the school district and the police department. He puffed out his chest and assured me he was the guy who could find out anything at that school.

I thanked him and handed him my business card, but as I started to leave, I said, "Hey, can you look at a few pictures of suspects I may have in mind?"

He said, "No problem," as I handed him the photos I had taken just moments before in his very own bedroom.

As he looked down at the photos, he began to shake uncontrollably, his lower lip quivered and he tried to speak, but no words came out.

I said to him as I placed the cuffs on his trembling wrists, "I just knew you were the guy to help me crack this case!"

I don't know what happened to that juvenile delinquent, but hopefully his first, unsuccessful attempt at crime put the fear of the law in his heart for life.

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