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Departments : The Beat

A Very Bad Choice

Thieves shouldn’t choose cops as their targets

May 01, 2004  |  by Jim McDevitt


The one-ten precinct is located at 94-41 43rd Avenue in Queens, New York. More than 167,000 citizens live within the confines of our precinct boundaries. Some of them make very bad choices.

It was a frigid January night and I was working a midnight-to-eight tour. When I arrived at the precinct snow was starting to fall. Before going upstairs to change into uniform, I checked the roll call posted in the sitting room. Our patrol vehicle was marked out of service and in the shop for repairs. Frank, my partner, was penciled in for a foot post and I had the switchboard.

I changed into my uniform shirt and tie and went downstairs to relieve the sergeant on duty. One of our two sergeants for the tour was off, which meant I would pull switchboard duty for the entire tour while the lone sergeant stayed on patrol, supervising.

As the night wore on, the temperature outside dipped to 16 degrees and snow started accumulating in inches, making driving difficult. By 4 a.m., the only calls I was getting on the switchboard were the rings from the few cops on foot patrol in the precinct.

The detectives from the one-ten squad were in and out a few times, each time stopping at the front desk to let the desk officer know they would be
out on patrol or were back in the house. One of them, Det. Murphy, constantly complained about having to park his own car behind the precinct on 42nd Avenue or 95th Street where he couldn't keep an eye on it.

I didn't have much sympathy for him because all the uniformed cops always ended up parking back there. You could never get a parking spot on 43rd Avenue because 30 yards of space was kept open in front of the station house for patrol cars to park and bring in prisoners or for the division captain to drop by and inspect the station house. The rest of the block was filled with impounded cars from drunk driving arrests or recovered stolen cars.

At 5 a.m. Det. Murphy said he was going out to pick up some burgers and coffee. Less then five minutes later, he pulled up in front of the station house with two guys handcuffed in the back of the one-ten squad car. The two prisoners emerged with sullen expressions and Murphy was beat red. Fuming is the word I would use to describe his demeanor.

"Can you believe these guys?" Murphy yelled toward the desk officer as he shoved them ahead of him. "With eight inches of snow on the ground, these two dumb mutts are stealing the license plates off my car on 42nd Avenue."
"That was yo car? Damn!" One of the perps mumbled.

"You said it was a quiet street," the other complained, turning to his
accomplice.

"Each one of these mutts was working on a plate on my car when I drove back there to pick up a magazine I'd left on the front seat," Murphy said. "When I asked them what they were doing, they had the gall to tell me to get lost."

It was at that point Murphy had pulled his weapon and had them assume the prone position face down in the snow, which explained the ice and snow on their eyebrows and hair, along with the frozen expressions on their faces. Murphy was one of those guys always carrying two sets of handcuffs and this time they came in handy, although it's doubtful the two crooks in their sneakers were going to make a run for it in eight inches of snow.

Unfamiliar with cops' routines, the thieves had no idea police officers were always coming and going on these streets behind the precinct.

Perhaps these dummies had their eyes on one of the stolen cars we'd recovered parked in front of the precinct and figured they'd change the plates and drive off. Then again, these guys weren't deep thinkers and I'd probably be giving them too much credit for thinking that far ahead.

Jim McDevitt is retired from the New York Police Department and now writes a column for Texas Highway Patrol magazine.


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