Think out of the box when handling "routine" crimes

Submitted by:
Scott Buhrmaster, PoliceOne Managing Editor


Following a recent news report that a “Jaws of Life” rescue tool had been stolen from an Alabama fire station, a member on one firefighting web site cautioned officials in the area to keep an eye on their local ATMs. “The jaws will work well to pop the safe open,” he wrote. “We had a similar problem a couple of years ago.”

This incident serves as a reminder to be sure that you stay in contact with key entities – like fire departments and EMS units -- who can tip you off to crimes that can signal more trouble coming. Firefighters and police officials in the area of the Jaws theft were baffled as to why someone would target a piece of equipment like this. This alert FR1 member gives a great answer to that question.

Be sure that members of your agency are inspired to look deeper and think out of the box when taking crime reports. Ask yourself, "This crime seems odd. Could it mean something else?" Odd, seemingly "harmless" crimes can also flag possible terrorist preparation. In his book, Terrorism Prevention and Response, author Cliff Mariani suggests the following:   

    • Stay alert for "routine" crimes that can serve as red flags to possible terrorist planning. Vast quantities of dangerous and deadly chemicals (which could be diverted from manufacturing, transportation, storage and sales facilities for a chemical warfare attack) are lawfully used in the manufacture of common products. Prowling incidents, burglaries, thefts, missing inventory, suspicious new applicants for employment, etc. are 'red flag' events that require immediate investigation.

    If any of the following products are produced, stored or sold in large quantities in your patrol sector, pay special attention to the facility while on patrol: bleaching products, chlorine products, cleaning solutions, crowd/riot control sprays, disinfectants, drain cleaners, dyes, fertilizers, fumigation products, fungicides, galvanizing solutions, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, metal polishes, organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, photographic solutions, plastics/polymers, solvents, weed killers.

    • Develop information-sharing relationships with local merchants, landlords and manufacturers that can yield quick alerts to suspicious persons and behavior. Ask merchants to remain alert for inexplicable purchasing anomalies (i.e. large purchases of potentially harmful products). Ask manufacturers to keep you abreast of any out-of-the-ordinary occurrences at their plants or within their staff that may be worthy of focus. Ask landlords to stay alert for tenants and/or tenant behavior that may give them pause. Alert citizens can provide tremendous strength to a counter-terrorism awareness campaign.

Thinking beyond the obvious and making sure your “intelligence web” is vast and diversified can help keep you one step ahead.

Scott Buhrmaster is a longtime contributor to, as well as former Publisher of Police Marksman magazine. He has also served as Contributing Editor for Law Officer magazine. Scott has been a member of the law enforcement training community since 1989, when he began work as Director of Research with Calibre Press, Inc., producers of The Street Survival Seminar.

Throughout his tenure at Calibre, Buhrmaster was involved with virtually every aspect of the company’s officer survival training efforts, from the planning, creation and marketing of the organization’s award-winning textbooks and videos to developing and securing training content for the Seminar. In 1995, he was named Director of the Calibre Press Street Survival Newsline®, an Internet-based officer survival training service he helped found. In less than five years, Newsline readership grew from 25 officers to more than 250,000 in 26 countries, making it one of the most popular training vehicles in law enforcement history. His efforts now focus on providing training and information to the nearly 400,000 officers worldwide who visit every month.

Prior to joining PoliceOne, Buhrmaster, who also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center and stands as an active member of the American Society for Law Enforcement Training and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, was President of The Buhrmaster Consulting Group, an international consulting practice for the law enforcement training sector and the publishing industry.

Contact Scott Buhrmaster

Back to previous page