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3 ways cops can protect a take-home vehicle

Considering the proliferation of law enforcement take-home vehicle programs, it’s no surprise there has been a correlating increase in burglaries to those vehicles


Residential surveillance systems have never been more affordable and practical.

Photo/Warren Wilson

In a bid to help attract new recruits and make more squad cars visible in the community, the Albuquerque Police Department announced it will be revising its take-home vehicle policy. In this article, Warren Wilson outlines three ways cops can secure their take-home squad.

Waking up to vandalism or a burglary is no way to start a day off. The front porch chairs were gone (later found on the roof) and there was unintelligible graffiti in a few places around the property. Thankfully, I’d left my take-home patrol car at work that week while I was recovering from surgery.

I knew the desperados in question were probably just harmless hooligans acting out. Still, it was disconcerting to think strangers were up to no good committing their crime mere feet from my wife and child as they slept. A few more layers of security were in order.

Too Close to Home

Considering the proliferation of law enforcement take-home vehicle programs, it’s no surprise there has been a correlating increase in burglaries to those vehicles. We often receive notifications from other agencies reporting emergency equipment lost in these crimes, such as pistols, rifles, shotguns, badges, identification cards, body armor, raid jackets and radios. No one would want to be responsible for any of these items coming into possession of a criminal. Still, that’s exactly what can happen when we leave said equipment in a vehicle parked at our home.

Thieves who choose to burglarize vehicles are somewhat brazen by nature, but it takes a different sort to commit a felony on a law enforcement officer’s property. I know of at least one case where a cop interrupted a vehicle burglary in progress at his home. He was shot and killed. The case was never solved. Here are three steps you can take to minimize your risk:

1. Neighborhood Watch

When considering a security upgrade, don’t neglect the easiest and most cost-effective crime-fighting tool: People. Most criminals, burglars included, weigh their risks prior to choosing a target. Prying eyes increase the threat of being caught, which reduces the appeal.

Cultivate relationships with your neighbors and give them your contact information. Most folks like the idea of a police vehicle parked in their residential area and will be anxious to help out however they can. I recently started a neighborhood internet forum and, within a few months, over 100 households were sharing information about everything from lost pets to suspicious people and vehicles.

2. Physical Security

Residential surveillance systems have never been more affordable and practical. Many of them connect directly to your wireless network in minutes and can be programed to send notifications to a smart phone or tablet when motion is detected. The same is true of solar-powered, motion-detection security lights. A few hundred dollars and a few hours of installation can provide a lot of security and peace of mind. A conspicuous sign from an actual security company – serious burglars can spot the fake ones – where the equipment was purchased can also be a good felon repellent.

3. Deter

An officer might believe since their vehicle is equipped with locking mounts for their long guns, it must be secure. Mounts and locks of this type are intended for short-term storage and are by no means burglar-proof. The most we should expect of mechanical security devices is to deter or delay their theft. While deterrence is most desirable, delaying may not be.

The longer a miscreant is on your property, the greater the chance you or a member of your family will interact with them. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how badly that could end. The truest deterrent to a vehicle burglar is not hardening the target, as stated above, but souring the pot. A rifle, shotgun or body armor left in plain sight leaves no doubt as to the ”reward” component of the risk vs. reward equation. Removing the potential spoils from the vehicle prior to parking it at the residence is the simplest and most effective deterrent.

No Days Off

Law enforcement officers must safeguard their firearms and other emergency equipment when not actively on duty. As the police, we caution citizens against leaving valuables unattended in their vehicle. The same practice applies to us. Losing a firearm to a criminal is certainly more consequential than a wallet or a stereo component. Consider the harm that could be caused to your citizenry by a felon armed with a firearm, body armor and a raid jacket. A few extra seconds at the end of your shift could mean you never have to find out.

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with the Enid Police Department in Oklahoma. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.