There's an interesting article in our monthly Informant Newsletter about a former police officer who finds stolen cars using Vehicle Identification Numbers. It's a very specialized position that is yielding good results. Here's the story:
What led New York City police to a suspected terrorist who planned to blow up Times Square with a car bomb on May 1 was the same thing Chris Whitaker looks for every day: a Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN.
In the realm of all things CSI, VINs are not a very sexy crime-fighting technique. But knowing how to find a VIN and determine whether it’s been tampered with can stop terrorists, or, as Whitaker knows, return stolen cars to their rightful owners.
Whitaker is KCPD’s new VIN Specialist, and it is his job to inspect every car that comes into the Kansas City Tow Lot. He also works with the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Department of Revenue doing business compliance checks at scrap yards and towing companies as well as investigating chop shops.
He returned as the civilian VIN Specialist in January 2010. When he was an officer, he took a course on cars that got stolen and re-tagged.
“I loved working those cases when I was in the field,” he said.
Whitaker is technically part of the East Patrol Property Crimes Section, though he works all over the city. Sergeant Keith Ericsson said Whitaker’s specialized training and knowledge allows him to identify a stolen car from just a door or an engine part.
“It’s something an officer couldn’t do,” Sergeant Ericsson said.