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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Be On the Lookout for Loners

Some people like to be alone, but some are just up to no good.

September 15, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

“Man is a social creature.”

—Benedict Spinoza

“No man is an Island.”

—John Donne.

“I bet that guy over there is beating off.”

—My training officer.

There’s something about seeing a guy by himself that provokes a visceral response. It can be one of pity: “Poor SOB.” Or as in the case when most cops see a guy by himself one of suspicion: “Poor SOB. What’s he up to?”

Accustomed to familiar scenes of their fellow human’s intermingling, it runs counter-intuitive for people to see their fellow man entertaining themselves alone, particularly in public places, especially at exotic hours.
True, some people are naturally loners. They park in the shade during their lunch break and eat their Subway sandwiches. Then they go back in the field working motors.

But others park off the beaten path for less savory reasons.

Take parks for instance. The lone male may be there to 1) buy his dope, 2) do his dope, 3) sell his dope, 4) drink his beer, or 5) relieve some sexual tension.

But guys who park alone on public streets and near businesses can be up to no good, too. Guys park near stores around closing time to case them. Stalkers and estranged lovers could be counted on to park near the homes and workplaces of the objects of their warped affections.

You never know what might turn up in checking out some guy that looks to be sitting in a car alone.

This past June, one off-duty Wake County (N.C.) deputy noted an SUV parked in the cul-de-sac of a subdivision under construction. Illuminating the vehicle, he saw what appeared to be a lone male inside. One investigative overture led to another and soon he discovered that the man was sitting next to a two-year-old boy. Garner, N.C., police officers called to the scene made an arrest. Police reports say the officers found a naked 12 year-old covered by a tarp in the back and pornographic images of the girl that the SUV driver, Jonathan Sullivan, 41, had allegedly taken of her. Sullivan was charged with indecent liberties with a minor.

In July of last year, San Antonio police officer Robert Ingram, was patrolling behind a strip retail center when he saw a car backed into a loading dock. Drawing closer, Ingram saw a lone male sitting in the driver’s side. The suspect looked up and motioned his head side to side, then pointed a finger up before motioning it from side to side (indicating a “no” gesture).

The suspect placed his car in drive and gunned the engine, accelerating into Officer Ingram’s car, pushing the patrol car back several feet until it was pinned between a concrete pillar and the suspect’s car. The suspect then reversed his car and again came forward, spinning his rear tires, as the suspect’s car again struck Officer Ingram’s patrol car. Officer Ingram, fearing for his life, fired his service weapon through his own patrol car’s front windshield, eventually killing the suspect and offering yet another anecdote against LAPD’s stupid firing at vehicles policy.

When dealing with a lone subject acting suspiciously, remember the totality of the circumstances is what matters. And that is readily addressed through the usual who, what, where, why, when, and how…

Who is he? Does he look like a dirtbag in a nice area? A well-dressed young man in a bad area? Someone that you’ve never seen before – and you know your route like your postman knows his.

What is he doing? Does he seem inordinately concerned about his actions arousing the curiosities of others?

Where is he? Is he parked near a playground, or a football field watching cheerleading tryouts? In the darkest area of the property? Or parked next to the only other car in the lot? Is he at the intersection, keeping vigil for traffic running in all directions, talking on a cell phone with buddies burglarizing a house a block away?

When is he there? After hours?

Why could he possibly have chosen to be at this location as opposed to any other?

How is he acting? Does he appear to be going out of his way to provoke such curiosity? Does he seem inordinately curious to your presence, or is he taking pains to ignore you?

Does he avoid eye contact with you, or is he unusually friendly? (Not to put citizens in unwinnable situations, but really, when was the last time a citizen really looked that happy to see you when they weren’t getting the crap beat out of them?)

I went with “he” because sometimes going for that whole gender neutral thing is a pain in the ass, and most of the time, it’s men that are up to no good. But it isn’t always just men that indulge scandalous behavior.
One night Eric Lindblom–recent recipient of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Medal of Valor (congrats, Eric)–saw a female seated in the driver’s seat of a car that was backed into a parking space. Eric illuminated her with his spotlamp at which time the woman got that deer in the headlights look. She then initiated a flurry of activity below Eric’s visual plane.

Eric quickly closed the distance and yelled to his partner, “I think she stashed a gun!”

Reaching below the driver’s seat, he grabbed for what he thought was a gun. What he came up with was a flesh-toned battery-operated device approximating the form of a booster rocket. Worse, its singular purpose had been recently realized. Wiping his hands disgustedly, Eric sent the fraulein on her way.

Well, at least Eric knew that she was up to something.

Often, you’ll know something’s up, too. So don’t talk yourself out of it. Be sociable.

Besides, you wouldn’t want your fellow man feeling all alone in this otherwise benign and existential universe, would you?

Tags: Field Interviews, Assaults on Officers


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

carrier50 @ 9/18/2009 5:10 PM

I'm a State Park Ranger, most of the loners in the park hang by the bathrooms looking for male companionship. We do plainclothes details and nab these guys. They usually expose themselves to us. We bust them for indecent exposure and open lewdness, both misdemeanors. I have been a Ranger for seven years now and all of my arrests are for this type of activity. The oldest guy was 82 (Viva Viagra).

GADNRangerjoe @ 9/18/2009 7:06 PM

I work on a state park in Georgia and I have seen all of these topics occur at least once while working here. One other thing I would like to add is you also need to be on the look out for individuals having sucidual gestures or actions as well as being in the middle of trying to take their life. In the three years I have been working here I have come across three seperate incidents where an indivudal was trying to take their own life.

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