As a suspense thriller writer who often puts police procedures and CSI like things in my books, I often get asked how much of it is real, and how much is fiction. Add to that the Law and Order fed fans who expect the police to catch every criminal using all kinds of high tech stuff that frankly is as out of reach to most departments as humility is to Kanye West.
With all of the crazy laws on the books, we all probably do things that are a little to the shady side, even if unintentionally. So here are ten things you’re glad your local cops don’t have access too.
Unless you own a white Ford Bronco, and wear gloves that are too small for you, if you take off at high speed, most of the time the police won’t chase you, at least not for long. The reason? 96% of police departments factor public safely into their chase policies.
Besides, most of the time by the time they turn the lights on, they know who you are already. And 40% will stop pursuing you immediately once they have that information. They’ll just wait for you at your house. Or where you work. Or at the restaurant you check into on Facebook.
Photo Credit: wikipedia
Although if you post publicly on Social Media, the police can use that information to find you, they don’t have unlimited access to records like you see on TV. Crime shows make you feel as exposed as Hillary Clinton’s e-mail, but your data is actually less likely to be stolen than a freezer truck full of beef at a PETA convention.
Cops need a warrant for every piece of data, and if they find your offshore Cayman Island accounts while looking for something else? They have to go back and get another warrant for that information. By the time they get one, you had time to move it.
If you think they’ll be dusting for prints if someone steals your car. you’re sadly mistaken. First, most criminals are smart enough not to leave them behind. Second, many departments don’t have anyone qualified to lift or analyze them, or the only person who knows how went through one day of training with a detective kit from Toys R Us.
While this may be common on TV dramas, many departments don’t have personnel trained to properly collect DNA either, and labs all over the country are backlogged. There have been success stories in some larger cities like Denver and New York, but the likelihood of DNA being used to solve a less significant crime are small, unless you are a murderer. If you are killing people like Dexter, stop. It just isn’t cool.
Even if your town has a forensics program, and someone who knows how to use the tools to collect fingerprints and DNA, results just don’t come in in a matter of hours, usually not even a matter of days. Much like recovering from the flu or accidentally listening to a Justin Beiber song, fingerprinting and DNA results often take weeks, even months.
Just because results don’t come back right away doesn’t mean they don’t make a difference. DNA has been used to solve cases colder than your ex-mother-in-law, but often like in the case of the Boston Strangler, years have passed.
You know the scene where the detective says to the tech, “Zoom in on that” and he does, and then pushes a button to enhance it, and voila, a face appears where there was just a blur before, or you can suddenly read a license plate? Yeah, probably as likely as Kanye West admitting he’s wrong.
Many cameras are not operational, or the recordings are erased daily due to lack of space, and they are about as hi-def as Leave it to Beaver reruns or the original Star Trek.
Photo Credit: crimefeed.com
News flash: wiretaps are hard to get, and stakeouts are incredibly expensive. You’re more likely to accidentally marry a distant cousin than have a van parked on your street listening to every word you’re saying in your house. Nobody wants to listen to your comments while you binge watch your favorite series on Netflix anyway.
Besides, the NSA just waits for you to post stuff on Facebook or send an e-mail. Want to clear the air? Just use the hashtag #justkiddingnsa. They’ll look at your defense right away, and maybe even move on to someone more interesting.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Despite all the hype about the NSA collecting all kinds of data on ordinary citizens, they probably aren’t recording you unless you are a thriller writer like me, and you Google all kinds of strange stuff. (#justkiddingnsa #itsonlyresearch)
Even if they did, your local police force needs a good reason to access the database, and it’s huge. Finding conversations is like looking for a celebrity who hasn’t dated a Kardashian.
From the jet on Criminal Minds to the long distance drives on other crime dramas, police departments are depicted has having unlimited budgets for gas and plane tickets. The reality is those budgets have less wiggle room than Shaq driving a Porsche.
Not to mention that most detectives have a huge stack of cases, and don’t have the time to run around like that.
Most police forces are understaffed and stretched thinner than the truth in congress, so several cops are not sitting at doughnut shops waiting for a call to come in, although a crime committed at a favorite coffee stop or bakery might get a faster than normal response.
While it’s never a good idea to walk on the wrong side of the law, even accidentally, you can rest assured unless you commit a high-profile crime, CSI: <insert the name of your town> probably won’t show up at your door with a battering ram and a box full of evidence against. you.