By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
Working Metro was anything but dull. Central Division (downtown) had been inundated with car clouters (burglars) in one six square block area on the PM/AM watches. We had been tasked with setting up a sting to see what we could do. The “hot spot” was in the 600 block south of one of the main streets alley to the west. It was Christmas season and we had a civilian car from some impound lot or other.
It was locked and parked in the appropriate spot. On the front seat, small metal box labeled “petty cash,” in the back seat an empty guitar, camera and binocular cases along with wrapped “gifts.”
To obvious? Ok, we added a brick on the ground nearby. Also close by were two large empty cardboard boxes refrigerator-size, each containing one large Metro officer. Two chase cars were close. The only thing missing was a large neon arrow pointing at car and brick.
We cleared the area and settled in for a long wait which was about ten minutes. Our first “client” only hesitated a moment before smashing the front passenger window. He took his pinch like a man and even stated “it just looked too good to be true.”
At this point, lack of planning almost derailed our little scheme. No one had the forethought to have replacement glass ready to install. It took too long to come up with a back-up car, so we settled for one arrest on opening night.
The second night our first “shoppers” were two teenagers. By now the “refrigerator team” decided a little fun was in order.
While one thief stood watch, the other smashed the window at which time both officers jumped out (don’t forget dark alley) and yelled “oogga boogga,” instead of the usual, “Excuse me gentlemen but you are under arrest.”
I was in one of the chase cars and did not witness this but was told one thief soiled himself (the transporting radio car did not see the humor) and the second made a high-pitched sound you might expect from a 12-year-old girl who has just seen a large, hairy spider. He then froze unable to move.
The new glass was installed quickly and we were back in business. It was also decided that if one bait car worked that well how about two? The detail ran a week or two with two cars. Bag total I think for both locations about ten or eleven. One clouter hit the window too hard and cut himself pretty badly. We all took turns as refrigerator guys so we all got to do the oogga boogga. Never a dull moment
Epilogue—detectives later confirmed most of the arrests were “I just couldn’t resist.” However, two were pros and search warrants recovered many thousands of dollars of stolen property.
“Oogga boogga” was the brainchild of one of the Metro guys. His six-year-old son delighted in jumping from hiding and scaring his four-year-old sister and made her cry. Who knew it worked on crooks?
As recently as last fall at a reunion, someone yelled “ooga boogga.”