1. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    What would the police do?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mike Cornelison, Apr 28, 2012.

    I don't have a police officer that I can bother right now, maybe someone would know what the typical response would be:

    Costa Mesa, CA, a relatively tame, mostly middle class So. Cal. town, pop 110,000.

    Call comes in to 911, the neighbors saw two burglars leaving apartment, door was locked, got the manager to open the door, and their neighbor was dead, definitely dead, the body was cold.

    It's around 1am in the morning when they make that call to 911.

    In the story, I have it that the police roll in front of the apartment, no sirens but lights flashing, 3 cop cars and a coroner.

    Is this a believable response. The main part is the sirens, because the perpetrators are three blocks away at an all-night diner and they have no idea the cops have already arrived until they're out of the parking lot driving back down the street towards the scene.
     
  2. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    It will to some extent depend on who gets the call. Costa Mesa always preferred to keep things low key. So if there was no immediate danger to life or property sirens wouldn't necessarily be used. It would also depend on the call. Whether they assumed natural causes or violence. I haven't lived there in many years so things could have changed.
     
  3. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Thanks for the reply (and check it out, a reply from someone who knows the town!) I lived there a couple years as well.

    It's a dead body, he died with a wound to the back of the head bleeding out in a pool on the floor, so the call is almost definitely homicide (unless he tripped) but the body is a good four hours cold, so no need for an ambulance.
     
  4. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    That's good to know, because if there's a plausible way to keep it no sirens, this is good.
     
  5. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    if the cops think he's been dead for some time. They might not be in a hurry. Again it all depends on circumstances, how busy they are. At 1am they may not want to make a lot of noise unless they feel they have no choice.
     
  6. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Excellent, that's exactly what I needed to hear, thanks.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I now live in a tiny little burg outside our capital city, so I'm familiar with how police initiate entry onto a crime scene in a smaller town.

    First, they come and arrest me. I don't blame them, actually. It doesn't help your plot, because I do not live in Costa Mesa. Howwever, the ideology is the same.

    Responding officers cannot assume anything. Their first acts are to get to the scene to make sure the living are safe, and then preserve the crime scene. Even here, they send mulitple squad cars. We don't roll a coroner here, but we do roll members of the EMS and most times someone from the fire department.

    For example, a few weeks ago we had a guy acting suspiciously at 2:00AM, most likely on drugs or drunk, wandering around a certain neighbor's yard. The PD rolled three squad cars, tied up the end of our subdivision for over an hour, searched the guy's car numerous times and then cuffed him and stuffed him.

    That was just for "suspicious behavior." It sounds like someone died in your story.
     
  8. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    LOL, Costa Mesa is an up scale area. With a lot of corporate HQ in one part of it. Very clean and low key. You don't see the cops but they are there. Go next door to Sana Ana it's whole different story. They'd arrive with sirens and guns drawn ready to arrest anyone that looks suspicious. Of course that would be a couple hours after they got the ten call.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Okay, that I'm familiar with...

    It seems that the specific town dictates how the initial action is treated in your area. That's the hook, then.
     
  10. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Haven't lived there since the 80s. They would still fan out and canvass the area, but if they knew whatever happened was long over with and no danger was present, there would still be plenty of cars and officers but unlikely to be rousting everybody.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also depends on the time of day. But if burglars were seen, that would probably be a lights and siren response, because they would want to get there quickly. Lights and siren decision has a lot to do with traffic and how fast they need to get there. Also, lights and sirens warn people that someone/something dangerous may be in the area.
     
  12. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Traffic is very light in that neighborhood after hours, which is mentioned a few times, but yes, the point about them being spotted fleeing makes it seem more of a situation where there would be the sirens, I was thinking that same point.

    From the standpoint of the revelation that the cops are at the scene, it seem so much more effective to have them in the car, leaving the parking lot and driving back when they see the cops out in front of the building instead of hearing the sirens or seeing a cop car blaze by from the diner.
     
  13. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    You said the guy was dead four hours. Did the 911 caller say burglars just left or that four hours earlier they saw someone that might have been burglars leaving the scene. One case any cop would be in a hurry, in the other, a veteran who'd never pulled his gun, in a neighborhood not known for violence or trouble makers, may not feel it necessary to rush in sirens blazing. Or they may come in quiet as not to alert someone still hanging around.
     
  14. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Good noticing on that detail, they were hanging out with the dead guy, even had to leave and come back and were never spotted until they left the second time, but yes, they were spotted not long before you imagine the neighbors making the phone call.

    The perps are stoned, btw, and once they get out of there, one character insists on hitting the all-night diner, so they're stoned, they've got the munchies, at this point only two of the four know anyone even saw them, they're not criminals, and they're also young, mid 20s, so I think it's plausible that they linger only three blocks away at a diner after bailing even knowing they were spotted. (But they are going to have to go back to the same street where the crime happened to get their cars.) They're not bumbling, comedic criminals, but they're also definitely not the wise and shrewd criminals, they're somewhere inbetween and it's a device I'm trying to use through out the story, they're trying to figure out what would a criminal do?

    But back to the call from the neighbors, the reader doesn't see this happen, but can imagine maybe 15 or 30 minutes to knock on the door, look in windows, wonder if maybe the robbers hit while the neighbor was out, decide to get the manager, make the discovery and make the call, maybe 15 or 30 minutes, so yes, even though the body's cold, they make the call relatively soon after the burglars leave.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So perhaps the neighbor notices some damage to one of the doors or windows, and reports vandalism. The first officer on the scene suspects there may still be someone on the premises, so he calls for backup, and to keep it silent so as not to alert possible intruders.
     
  16. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    The neighbors see the two guys leaving, with a pillow case filled with stuff (they're just trying to make the murder look like a robbery, really) so it certainly looks like a robbery, but the only way I could really picture it happening is neighbor knocking on door, hears no answer, gets the manager (and the guy who got killed is very much a hermit, this point is made clear) so . . . I think the reader has to imagine a body being discovered instead of a robbery called in, but you do get me to thinking I don't have to go all out with the coroner already being there, just seemed a bit more dramatic.

    It's strange because it sounds so much more convoluted when I try to describe it in just a couple sentences in a post. I hope my writing is better than my posting.
     
  17. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I was a cop for several years, though not in California. Where I worked, this was standard: Burglary - in progress (suspects in the house), emergency response, but kill your siren before you get within hearing range; kill all of your lights before you arrive, set a perimeter around the house, make entry, with a dog if one is available. If they just left, emergency response with lights and sirens, especially if a homicide might be involved. Some units will go to the scene and lock it down, start getting witness statements, get some evidence guys out, detectives, etc. Others would set up a perimeter of several blocks, to a mile or so out while you run k9 from the scene. If the witnesses saw them leave in a vehicle, forget the perimeter, put out a BOLO and circulate. A coroner or medical examiner would not generally come to a scene. After the entire scene has been photographed and evidence collected, then you'd call for the medical examiner's pick up, meaning a schlep in a van or something similar comes and picks the body up and takes it to the ME. Autopsies are not done at crime scenes.

    In your scenario, every officer there would be silently or not silently berating the landlord and witness for A: not calling as soon as they thought the house was being burgled, and B: for going inside and possibly screwing up their crime scene.
     
  18. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    That is a wealth of information right there, much appreciated.

    There are definitely some things that need to be changed from how I presented it. We can only assume what happened at the building to bring the cops over, but whether the witnesses went straight to calling a burglary which actually seems a lot more what a reader would visualize than them futzing around, knocking on the door, etc., but it's important that our MCs leave the scene half-oblivious and half-unconcerned towards thinking they should be fleeing just as far and as fast as they can.

    The scene at the diner is important, so it may be that I have to remove the witnesses entirely if the only plausible outcome after they leave is that sirens are blaring and perimeters are being set up.

    Thanks for the info, I'm enjoying my characters, but I have a lot of work to do on the side of technical details and real world scenarios.
     
  19. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Oh yes, one detail that may be helpful, standard residential area blocks, approximately how many blocks away are you killing the siren before you get within hearing range?
     
  20. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    If the burglars had left, it would be lights, no sirens. No need to wake up everyone to cause a commotion at that hour. Police officers would arrive first with paramedics. Then the coroner would be called. Coroners do not arrive unless verified by paramedics and police officers. Also, the area would need to be sealed off.

    That's what has always been done by my family and family friends who are all police officers. Hope it helps.
     
  21. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    This helps, thanks for the reply. I think my little sleepy town of Costa Mesa will be able to continue their slumbers undisturbed, and my four characters will be able to have their meal at the diner not knowing the cops are at the building until they start driving up on it. Ditch the coroner, too early for that. It's a big apartment building, the victims pad in the back, so no tape, but police begin interviewing a few of the neighbors who had come out front might be a good detail.

    BTW, checked out your blog, congrats on the 2500 milestone. It starts to build on itself, maybe not snowball, but it will grow a little faster and faster if you keep the content fresh.
     
  22. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Maybe in California, officers are more considerate of people's sleeping habits. I live in San Diego now and that does not seem to be the case. Technically, a police vehicle must have lights and sirens going to legally break traffic laws. If an officer was responding emergency traffic without one or the other and got into a wreck going through a light he or she would be liable. Our cars recorded our speeds and if lights and sirens were activated. That being said, general practice is to kill your siren if you are trying to be sneaky. I'd say at least a mile out would be a prudent distance to silence your siren. The sound carries pretty well, especially at night.
     
  23. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Good stuff, so maybe at the very least, they received a report of the burglars leaving the scene, so they killed the siren a mile out in hopes of catching them fleeing.
     

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