Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Mounted Patrol at work

I hope you got a chance to see the Mounted Patrol demonstration this past Friday at the American Royal. The officers and horses do incredible work, and I wanted to share an example that happened the night before the demonstration.

At about 9:30 p.m. March 19, Officers Joe Nelson and Julie Tomasic were on horseback patrolling parking lots around the Sprint Center during the NCAA tournament. Because of the “tower of visibility” sitting atop such a tall animal afforded them, they were able to see over people and cars in the area and caught sight of a young man with a backpack, looking into the windows of cars parked in a lot at 12th and McGee streets. When the man heard the horses, he started walking away rapidly. The officers quickly caught up to him and started asking him questions about what he was doing. The 18-year-old man gave several false names, but the officers eventually got him to reveal his real name. He had two warrants for his arrest for stealing from vehicles. Officers Nelson and Tomasic arrested him on those warrants and searched his backpack. It had nothing inside but juvenile court papers regarding previous incidents of burglary and theft with which the teen had been charged.

The Bike Patrol officers showed up to assist Mounted Patrol and looked into the cars the suspect had been checking out. One had an unlocked driver’s side door with a GPS (Global Positioning System) on the dash and several other valuable items in plain view. The officers weren’t able to locate the owners and presumed they were inside the Sprint Center. The suspect was taken to jail.

Several things were at play here:

* First, I believe the presence of the Mounted Patrol Officers prevented at least one burglary and put a known thief behind bars, plain and simple.

* Second, the fact that they were high on horseback allowed them to see what other officers at street level would likely have missed, which is one of many reasons why they’re a valuable asset to our department.

* Third, this was a great demonstration of how the police presence we have allocated to the Downtown area is paying off. After the Mounted Patrol Officers contacted the suspect, the Downtown Bike Patrol officers arrived to assist them. We have allocated specialized squads like these to protect the city’s investment into the revitalized Downtown area by making it a safe, fun place to visit.

* Finally, it was a good lesson in how people can avoid being victimized. The car the suspected burglar was targeting had an unlocked door and very valuable items in plain view. Thieves are far less likely to target cars with nothing of value visible inside and with locked doors. We also discussed this during the press conference Monday, when we announced the great results from the Metro Patrol Division Property Crimes Task Force. So many of the burglaries those officers investigated could have been prevented had people simply not left things like cell phones, purses, iPods, computers and GPS units sitting in their cars in plain view.

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