The fight against crime is an on-going, continuously changing battle. And it is often the small encounters--such as for a loud stereo--that net the larger catch.
This article originally appeared in the August 1996 issue of The Crime Beat Gazette.

Taking Back Our Streets, No Routine Task
by Stephen S. Ware

It was 3:15 a.m. on a warm summer's morning in Indianapolis. There was nothing particularly special about Sunday, August 8, 1993 as I and two other officers patrolled on foot through an inner-city apartment community that was undergoing renovations.

Our patrols of the area would probably be described as routine by many. But as any officer can attest to, there's no such thing as "routine" when it comes to law enforcement.

We had been contracted not only to watch over the property, but to help improve the quality of life for the residents just as the management was trying to improve the quality of housing they resided in. To accomplish this we had to take a firm stance against public drunkenness, loitering, trespassing, public indecency and other quality of life offenses. We were doing our part to reclaim the neighborhood for those who lived there.

Many of the abandoned apartment units were boarded up. But that did not discourage the local prostitutes and drug additcts from commandeering them for their illicit activities, nor did our uniformed presence or highly visible arrests.

As is common during the warm summer nights of the Midwest, groups of individuals dotted the property loitering--some were residents, others existed there with less than honorable intentions. As we walked the premises eliminating the unwelcome, our presence was virtually undetected as the shrubbery and building facades made us inconspicuous to the unsuspecting.

A black Ford Escort raced onto the property from East 38th Street -- a major thoroghfare and popular cruising strip. There were accoustical wonders emanating from the car that only the driver could truly appreciate. This obviously drew our attention.

We had received complaints previously from the residents in the area about loud, disturbing car stereos during the wee hours of the morning. Cautiously, we approached the car which was several hundred feet away. By the time we had reached the area on foot, the driver had exited the vehicle and had begun to approach a group of individuals that were lingering on a dimly lit street corner. This particular corner was a frequent hangout for the local drug dealers, or street corner pharmacists as we had fondly nicknamed them.

As we approached the group, I assumed the position of cover officer. Being the senior officer on the scene, I watched for subtle signs of trouble while another officer made the initial contact. The third officer kept a watchful eye on the group. Our focus, however, was on the driver since we had been watching the group for a while and found nothing unusual about their activities. The driver was isolated from the group and asked for a driver's license as we investigated a violation of the city's noise ordinance. We had all observed him driving on a public street prior to entering the private property of the apartment complex.

Something about the subject's demeanor and mannerisms sent a red flag to my partner. He, therefore, decided to conduct a pat down for weapons of the subject's outer clothing as allowed by law. No objection or resistance was given to the officer's search. In fact, the driver fully coooperated up to the point when my partner's hand landed on the butt on the Davis .380 handgun that was shoved down the front of his pants.

He no longer wanted to cooperate at that point and a struggle began for the gun. The two of us wrestled the subject as the third officer protected us from being mobbed by the bystanders.
Then all of a sudden it happened -- BOOM! The dull sound of a human body as it impacted the hood of the car.

Many officers have recounted stories of being in life or death situations. Most recall thinking of their spouse and their children during the episodes. I found there to be no time to think about the situation, just to react. I was certain in my mind that this man--who was armed with a gun--wasn't fighting with us for the sport of it.
I was dedicated to my conviction of emerging from the situation unharmed, though I'm not sure that I believed that I would.

I think our perpetrator was caught off guard and startled by the sound before he realized that it was the sound of his body hitting the car after being tackled by us. After a brief but nerve-wrenching struggle, the 20-year-old suspect was successfully taken into custody without anyone being injured.
He was charged with carrying a handgun without a license, possession of marijuana and possession of alcohol by a minor. And of course he was cited for violation of the city noise ordinance with his loud car stereo.

This was, by no means, the most horrific situation that an officer could encounter. It does, however, illustrate how a seemingly innocent encounter can turn into something much more. Had we been complacent or over zealous, the results of this "routine" encounter could have been deadly.

In law enforcement you are taught not to underestimate the abilities of the people you go up against. But more importantly you learn not to underestimate your own.

The fight against crime is an on-going, continuously changing battle. And it is often the small encounters--such as for a loud stereo--that net the larger catch. At least for that one night, the person we arrested wasn't able to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol nor was he able to use his gun for any unlawful purpose--our small contribution to the war on crime.

This article originally appeared in the August 1996 issue of The Crime Beat Gazette.