Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ol' Heave-Ho-Ho-Ho

In this photo, taken in 2008, Police Chief Dan Pancoast of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, throws a Christmas tree. Why? Because that’s part of how he celebrates Christmas – by participating in the annual "Tree Toss" which raises money for charity.

Last year, Chief Pancoast won the contest over former Bethlehem Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics. This year, current Police Commissioner Jason Schiffer pitched a tree some 17 feet, defeating Pancoast’s throw of 15 feet 3 inches.

Lots of good-natured ribbing was taking place, as is predictable when any group of men enter into any sort of contest. Chief Pancoast noted that the mayor keeps changing police commissioners "faster than some hotels changes linens." The problem with that, said the Chief, is that "They keep getting younger and stronger."

A Christmas Tree Toss is a rather unusual event, but a worthwhile one since it benefits charitable organizations. This year the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Turning Point of Lehigh Valley were among the beneficiaries.

Photo by Bill Adams, courtesy of the Express-Times

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Trade in Stolen Property

In the photo is a rather uncommon car, a 1962 Dodge Lancer station wagon. This particular Lancer has an interesting story, a story about its theft and recovery.

A fellow named Stan Aiton bought this car only last year, but he’d been saving parts for the restoration and modification of just such a car for the last 41 years -- ever since a neighbor gave him some rare Lancer parts when he was 15 years old. So Stan was crushed when the Lancer, fitted with those parts, was stolen earlier this year. Thanks to the actions of some Good Samaritans and understanding police, however, the car is back in Stan’s possession.
Stan bought the Lancer last March when living in Virginia and almost immediately began stripping it down for restoration.  He said the car was about 60 percent complete – including new paint, a new windshield and newly reupholstered seats – when he took a job in Texas in January of this year. Without a garage in which to keep the Lancer after his move, Stan stored it in a 24-foot enclosed trailer, and kept the trailer parked at a storage lot in Duncanville, Texas.
In late July, the trailer and everything in it disappeared. Stan filed a police report, but investigators had little to go on until the trailer was spotted in August wearing another set of stolen license plates. The police arrested the man hauling the trailer on multiple counts of grand theft auto, accusing him of using the trailer to steal other cars, but the trailer no longer contained the Lancer or any of the parts Stan had been collecting for years. It looked as if Stan wouldn’t see the contents of the trailer ever again, but as it turned out, the Lancer hadn’t gone very far.
Earlier this month, Stephen Ramsey and Adrian Britton at Ramsey’s Rods and Restoration in Fort Worth, Texas – less than two hours from Duncanville – were offered the Lancer for $1,500 by a couple looking to bail their nephew out of jail. "We get calls all the time from people who want to sell their cars, so I went out to take a look," Britton said. When the sellers began bringing out boxes upon boxes of parts, Britton began to suspect something was up, but brought it back to the shop anyway. "Steve just looked into my eyes and said, ‘That’s not right.’" The Lancer didn’t have its VIN (vehicle identification number), but after some digging online, Ramsey found message board posts from Stan asking people to keep an eye out for his car.
Within an hour, calls were placed to at least three different police agencies and an email was sent to Stan. The next morning Stan and the police all converged at Ramsey’s, and Stan positively identified the Lancer and all the parts as his. "We already work with the Fort Worth Auto Theft Task Force Unit, so we were able to convince them not to impound the car and let Stan take it directly home," Britton said. "We were also able to get the paperwork done on the spot to straighten out the missing VIN." Ramsey was also able to recover a portion of the money spent on the car, Britton said.
Stan, who was able to bring the Lancer home this past Saturday, said he found that the thief or somebody who had access to the car while it was missing had started installing some trim on the car, but scratched the paint in doing so and damaged some other parts. "It was like they were going to get it running," he said. "I guess the missing crankshaft made them decide they were over their head."
This story and the accompanying photo came to us from our friends at Hemmings Motor News. The selfless actions of the folks at Ramsey’s Rods and Restoration, who paid money for the car and then sought out its rightful owner, are noteworthy, as is the decision by the Fort Worth Auto Theft Task Force Unit to permit the car to go back to the rightful owner without impound.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Loss Deeply Felt

The law enforcement community -- and the community as a whole -- suffered a sad and startling loss today with the news that Edmund Spinelli, Jr., Police Chief in Carneys Point, New Jersey, died at his home at the age of 45.

Far, far too young. As of this writing the cause of death has not yet been determined, but it has been reported to appear to be a heart attack.

Chief Spinelli served with both the NJ State Police and the Penns Grove Police Department prior to joining the Carneys Point Police Department. Those with whom he worked and those whom he served speak highly of the man, his professionalism, and his integrity.

A Common Misconception

On Tuesday of this week three corrections officers from the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility were hospitalized after being attacked by inmates. Fortunately, no injuries were life-threatening.

The facility is located only a few miles from the home offices of the Badge Company of New Jersey, and a common misconception in the neighborhood is that it houses kids. After all, it is called the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility.

However, inmates at this facility range in age up to 32. Not exactly children, and hardly a benign environment for corrections officers. No matter which facility in which they work, New Jersey corrections officers face persons and situations that few citizens would wish to face.