Robbers Dressing Like Police In Miami Area
MIAMI (AP) _ Robberies committed by bogus cops are on the rise, perhaps because of the scandal that has rocked Miami’s police force, and officers say the problem is so bad civilians sometimes ″don’t trust real police.″
Metro-Dade County police, who patrol the heavily-populated suburbs of Miami, estimate they have investigated 60 robberies committed by bogus cops in the past year and arrested at least 25 suspects over the past 18 months. Miami, Hialeah and other area cities also report growing numbers of such cases.
″It makes it hard for us,″ said Marvin O’Dell, a Metro-Dade police detective. ″Sometimes they don’t trust real police.″
The imposters usually wear dark blue, police-type uniforms, carry badges that are meant for sale to security guard services and carry walkie-talkies and revolvers.
″It’s a phenomenon,″ said Metro Robbery Sgt. Jim Wander. ″This allows (criminals) easy access to a lot of residences.″
In some cases, they have carried official police equipment - there have been thefts of such equipment from police departments, and a Metro-Dade officer and a retired officer were charged last year with selling police equipment.
The imposters usually knock on victims’ doors, wave a piece of paper they claim is a search warrant and, once inside, tie their victims and ransack their homes, police say. In other cases, men with a flashing blue police-type light on their dashboard have pulled over drivers and robbed them at roadside.
Victims tend to be Spanish-speaking people the robbers suspect are involved in drug trafficking, investigators say.
″Often they see iron bars at the window and a Mercedes in the driveway and they think it’s one of them (drug dealers), but sometimes legitimate, successful businesspeople live there,″ Wander said.
However, in about half the robberies, ″victims may be on the fringe of some illegal activity themselves,″ he said.
Authorities also suspect the number of impersonators is growing because robbers hear the ploy has been used successfully. Authorities have said another factor may be the recent City of Miami Police scandal, in which eight officers have been indicted on charges they ″ripped off″ known drug dealers.
Police have warned area residents to insist on badge numbers and to tell police knocking at their door that they won’t let them in until after they have called the 911 emergency line to check with the officers’ police department.
Motorists being pulled over by an unmarked car are being advised to put on emergency lights and slow down, but to try to avoid stopping until they are in a well-lighted, well-traveled area.
Police also say the impersonations have added to the danger of searches.
A Metro-Dade robbery detective investigating a police impersonation case last year went to the victim’s neighbor, who had witnessed the impersonation robbery and greeted the bonafide officer with a loaded shotgun.