[Collected via e-mail, March 2002]
This is an actual true story and not one of those Internet stories that are passed on and on. This actually happened to one of my dearest nw friend’s daughter. Her daughter, Lauren, is 19 yrs. old and a sophomore in college. This happened to her over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday break.
It was the Saturday before New Year’s and it was about 1 pm in the afternoon. Lauren was driving from here (Winchester, Va.) to visit a friend in Warrenton. For those of you who are familiar with the area, she was taking Rt. 50 East towards Middleburg and then was going to cut over to I-66 via Rt. 17. Those of you who aren’t familiar with this area, Rt. 50 East is a main road (55 mph and two lanes each side with a big median separating East/West lanes), but is somewhat secluded, known for it’s big horse farms and beautiful country estates.
Lauren was actually following behind a state police car shortly after she left Winchester and was going just over 65 mph since she was following behind him. An UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on. My friend and her husband have 4 children (high school and college age) and have always told them never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather wait until they get to a gas station, etc. So Lauren actually listened to her parents advice, and promptly called #77 on her cell phone to tell the dispatcher that she would not pull over right away.
She proceeded to tell the dispatcher that there were 2 police cars, one unmarked behind her and one marked in front of her. The dispatcher checked to confirm that there were 2 police cars where she was. There wasn’t and she was connected to the policeman in front of her. He told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back-up already on the way.
Ten minutes later, 4 police cars surrounded her and the unmarked car behind her. One policeman went to her side and the others surrounded the car behind. They pulled the guy from the car and tackled him to the ground … the man was a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes. Thank God Lauren listened to her parents! She was shaken up, but fine.
I never knew that bit of advice, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you should NEVER pull over for an unmarked car in a secluded area. In fact, even a marked car after dark should follow you to a populated area. Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a “safe” place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them (i.e. put on your hazard lights) or call #77 like Lauren did.
I am so thankful that my friend was sitting at our book club meeting telling us this scary story, rather than us at her house consoling her had something tragic occurred!
Be safe and pass this on to your friends. Awareness is everything!
[Collected via e-mail, March 2006]
A bit of useful advice – verified by the Dorset Police.
The number does work from a mobile.
This actually happened to someone’s daughter. Lauren was 19 yrs old and in college.
This story takes place over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday break. It was the Saturday before New Year and it was about 1.00pm in the afternoon, and Lauren was driving to visit a friend, when an UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put its lights on.
Lauren’s parents have 4 children (of various ages) and have always told them never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather wait until they get to a service station, etc. So Lauren remembered her parents’ advice, and telephoned 112 from her mobile phone. This connected her to the police dispatcher she told the dispatcher that there was an unmarked police car with a flashing blue light on his rooftop behind her and that she would not pull over right away but wait until she was in a service station or busy area.
The dispatcher checked to see if there was a police car where she was and there wasn’t and he told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back-up already on the way.
Ten minutes later 4 police cars surrounded her and the unmarked car behind her. One policeman went to her side and the others surrounded the car behind. They pulled the guy from the car and tackled him to the ground….. the man was a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes.
I never knew that bit of advice, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you do not have to pull over for an UNMARKED car.
Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a ‘safe’ place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them I.e., put on your hazard lights) or call 112 like Lauren did.
Too bad the mobile phone companies don’t give you this little bit of wonderful information. So now it’s your turn to let your friends know about 112 (112 is an emergency number on your mobile that takes you straight to the police because 999 does not work if you have no signal).
This is good information that I did not know!
Please pass on to all your friends, especially any females. As far as I am aware, 112 uses a system called triangulation so they can also pinpoint exactly where you are phoning from.
Whether the accounts reproduced above really represent an “actual true story and not one of those Internet stories that are passed on and on” is unknown, but the main point that most readers have taken from them is undeniably not true: calling #77 or 112 from your cell phone will not connect you to emergency services no matter where you are, nor doing so connect you with emergency services even when your cell phone does not have an adequate signal to place outgoing calls.
Although in a few states in the U.S. calling #77 on a cell phone will immediately connect you to that state’s highway patrol, that code is far from universal. Some states use #77, but others use *55, *47, *77 or *HP, and some don’t have any special code at all. Rather than frantically try to figure out which one will work in the area you’re in, police generally recommend that the best approach is to get around the problem by trying 911 first:
“Just call 9-1-1,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “There’s no reason to use another number. 9-1-1 is always the best way to reach the police when you need our assistance.”
The phone number 112 is used as a global emergency phone number in a number of countries, primarily in the European Union. In some parts of the United States a call to 112 will roll over to the local 911 system, but since 112 is not implemented as a universal emergency number in the U.S., calling 911 directly is the better option.
Some police agencies have even issued social media warnings advising the public not to call 112 at all, saying that “the (idea) that calling 1-1-2 is somehow faster than calling 9-1-1 is utterly false.”
Regarding the scenario described in the examples at the head of this page, police advise motorists to immediately pull over when signaled to do so, suggesting those concerned about their safety keep their doors locked and crack their windows to speak with persons presenting themselves as officers of the law. They suggest sidelined drivers who are suspicious of their detainers’ demands should request to examine the officers’ photo IDs and ask them where they work, then place calls to 911 to verify their identities. While this would certainly be the right way to handle genuine police officers making bona fide traffic stops, this method may fail to protect motorists from the ill-intentioned. Real bad guys often carry guns, against which locked car doors and cracked windows would avail little by way of protection.
The instance of rapists and murderers pretending to be police officers is not of epidemic proportions, but enough incidents of this nature have occurred that precautions are warranted. In 1948 in Los Angeles, Caryl Chessman successfully robbed couples and sexually assaulted a number of women in California after first fooling them into believing he was a police officer by flashing a red light at their vehicles. (Though often he approached parked cars this way, in at least one case he managed to pull over a car that was driving on Pacific Coast Highway.) His method of approach earned him the nickname of “The Red Light Bandit.” Chessman was executed on a kidnapping charge in 1960, but only after gaining fame for writing three books while in prison (most notably Cell 2455 Death Row) and becoming the focus of the then nascent movement to abolish the death penalty.
Since then others have used similar ruses to isolate their victims. More recently, in 1997 Arkansas was plagued by its “blue light rapist” who assaulted three women after first luring them to the side of the road with the help of a police-style blue light mounted on his car. Robert Todd Burmingham was sentenced in 1998 to 80 years in prison for rape, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery.
In 2000, a Tampa woman was sexually assaulted by a man who had put a flashing blue and red light atop his car and motioned her off the road as if he was a police officer. After she admitted she had been drinking, he offered to drive her home; she got into his car, and he took her to an isolated location where he raped her. That case is still open.
Someone who has taken to impersonating a police officer for nefarious purposes is counting upon his intended victim’s unquestioning cooperation. Because he appears in the guise of a trusted authority figure whose commands must be obeyed, he expects automatic reaction to kick in even if it overrides common sense. That could prove a fatal error to make.
In 1996 Governor Pataki of New York issued an executive order to prevent unmarked state police cars from stopping motorists for routine traffic violations, citing “a growing number of cases around the country in which criminals trap their victims by posing as police officers.”
A March 2002 version of the story changed the girl’s name from Lauren to Lisa. An October 2003 version moved the action to Australia. Once again, 19-year-old Lauren barely escaped disaster, but she did so by using the “No. 112 feature” on her cell phone to summon help. A July 2004 version shifted the story to Canada, but in this instance Lauren dialed *677. (The number *677, aka *OPP, is the non-emergency cell phone caller line of the Ontario Provincial Police.)
Airoldi, Robert. “Net Tale of Phony Police Stop Isn’t True.”
The [Fremont] Argus. 13 April 2003.
Dao, James. “Pataki Curbs Unmarked Cars’ Use.”
The New York Times. 18 April 1996.
Gallman, Judith. “Cop Ruse Popular Among Serial Killers.”
Arkansas Times. 1 August 1997.
Ode, Kim. “#77 Story Is Back Again.”
[Minneapolis] Star Tribune. 17 August 2003.
Thompson, Stephen. “Police Impersonator Rapes Motorist.”
The Tampa Tribune. 17 October 2000.
Associated Press. “Woman Says Man Impersonated Cop.”
19 November 1998.
Associated Press. “Alleged ‘Blue Light Rapist’ Sentenced to 80 Years.”
23 November 1998.
The Olympian. “State Patrol Dispels Cell Phone Myth.”
17 December 2007.
KMOX [St. Louis]. “Police Warn Against Calling 112 for Emergencies.”
30 October 2017.