Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Miscellaneous, part 5-A Smart Burglar


 by Hal Collier

Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.


The following story is true. In my last Ramblings I bragged a little ok, a lot about my best arrest. This story is about a business burglar who fooled me. The name of the suspect is real. It’s funny that I can’t remember the name of my best arrest, but this guy’s name is always on my mind. It’s probably because I had him and I let him slip away.


I’m working A.M. Watch and I have been studying the Daily Occurrence (D/O) sheets for crime in my area. I patrol the central area of Hollywood which is largely businesses along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. I notice a pattern of burglaries in small businesses. Some don’t have alarms and the items taken are small. I find myself driving through rear alleys and parking lots along Hollywood Boulevard. I jump on any alarms that are dispatched but don’t have any luck. The crimes continue and I’m getting frustrated. 


dark alleyHollywood is unique in that there are always people out in the middle of the night. Most cities don’t have pedestrians walking the side streets and alleys at 3 AM. I remember once I’m working with Frank, who just transferred into Hollywood. I’m driving down Hollywood Boulevard at 4 A.M. and Frank yells, “Stop. Turn around; go up that side street.” My adrenalin starts rushing. I whip the police car around and I just miss hitting a homeless man. I figure we got us a crime in progress. Maybe the Watch Commander will get off my back for not writing enough tickets.


Frank directs me to stop this pedestrian. Ok, we got him stopped. I ask Frank, “What do we have?” Frank looks at me like it’s my first day on the job. He says, “You’re kidding, right? We have this guy walking up this dark side street at 4 A.M.” In all fairness, in the Hollenbeck where Frank came from a guy walking up a dark side street is suspiciousin Hollywood nothing”. Remember Hollywood never sleeps.


Back to my burglar. I hear a broadcast of a burglar alarm in my area on Hollywood Boulevard. I’m only a block away. I immediately drive to the back. I approach this common courtyard which serves about ten businesses. This guy exits the courtyard. We grab him, I’m sure we got our burglar. 


The questioning goes something like this. “What’s your name?” 

“Steven Cox.” 


“What are you doing back there?” 


“I know it’s wrong but I had to go to the bathroom. Go ahead look under the fire escape”. 


I have my partner fill out a Field Interview card. I check under the fire escape and sure enough, someone has defecated. It’s fresh. I won’t go into a description of how I know it’s fresh, just trust me. I check the rear doors and windows of the business where the alarm was activated. Nothing. I look around at the other businesses. I can’t find any evidence of a burglary. We run him for wants and warrants over our police radio. No wants or warrants. I’ve run out of ideas. We release him.


burglar by aneta.orgTwo days later, I have the burglary detective yelling at me. Steven Cox is a wanted business burglar and he wants to know why I didn’t arrest him. The detective says that Cox has a warrant. He’s calling me all kinds of names because I didn’t check him. I explain that I did run him for warrants and the detective cools down. His boss is on his case because Cox is stealing Hollywood blind. The detective wants to know why I didn’t recognize Cox. I arrested him two years earlier inside Mike Smith Volkswagen on Cahuenga. He used the name Mark Johnson then. Hell, the detective had to look at my nametag to see who I was and I have worked with him in the same station for years.


Cox was caught a few weeks later and sat down for an interview. He was one smart burglar. He pre-planned his crimes. He would case the business during the day when they were open, then come back at night. He always urinated or defecated somewhere close to where he was breaking in. That way he would have an excuse for being at the rear of a business. He would take two swigs of alcohol before going out and act drunk if stopped in an alley. He would breathe in an officer’s face and stagger around. He fooled two Metro Officers that way when they caught him at the rear of a Mercedes Dealership. He would take out a whole windowpane so it didn’t look broken. He would go inside a business run around and see what property he wanted, then exit and wait for the police to check out the business. If the cops left, he knew he had all the time he needed.


Cox discussed the time I stopped him. He panicked and gave me his real name and date of birth. Why his warrant didn’t show up when I checked him is anybody’s guess. He admitted he fooled me and was burglarizing a business five doors away from where the alarm was activated. I still have the tape of Cox’s interview. Cox was one smart burglar. 

Sometimes even when you’re lucky you miss a big one.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More Off Duty Jobs (part 3)

More Off Duty Jobs

by Hal Collins

Another Ramblings that deals with off duty jobs. 

A lot of non-police think that cops make a good salary, and we do, but it’s mostly in benefits. You can’t spend a benefit. 


I’ll tell you how poor cops are. We got paid every two weeks on a Wednesday.  This is before direct deposit, so you had to actually hand a check to a bank teller to deposit your pay.  After they deposited your check you asked for cash back so you and your kids could eat that night.


Think I’m kidding? Listen to this: on payday, the checks were delivered to the station around noon.  Payday was like attending a reunion in the Watch Commanders office.  Lots of us rich cops were waiting to grab our paycheck before the ink was dry.  There were times when the checks were late and I had to push my way past detectives to get my check and race to the bank before they closed.  This is the reason we worked off duty jobs.  We wanted to buy new cars before ours was impounded as abandoned.  A lot of the wives didn’t work so we had a lot of one income families.  The others were known as “DINKs” for Double Income No Kids.


El Capitan movie premiere set-up photo courtesy of Wikipedia
El Capitan movie premiere set-up
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

After 14 years, I moved up to the big time. I became a Senior Lead Officer and worked Day Watch.  I soon was asked to work movie premieres at the Chinese Theater as well as a few special events.  Movie premieres were a choice assignment.  You get paid right away, the crowd is usually packed with tourists and the atmosphere was festive.  You got to see movie stars if that’s your thing—it wasn’t mine.  I often had to ask the tourists who was getting out of the limo.  It was a double treat if you also got to work the after-party.  See last weeks post for more on that.


I got on the fast track for good off duty jobs.  Mercedes had a car dealership on Sunset Boulevard just west of Vine.  Once a year they invited past customers to an open house to show off the new cars. They had great caterers and let face it, people who drive Mercedes don’t usually cause a lot of problems.  Of course, I had to wear my best suit. Okay, it was my only suit, but that’s why I was working off duty.  I was saving up for a newer Warehouse for Men’s suit.  I had one lady come up to me.  She thought I was a salesmen and asked if she could buy a Mercedes station wagon.She had her check book in her hand.  The sales commission would have been a lot more than I earned that night.  I opened my coat a little and the look on her face when she saw my gun was priceless.  I never was a good salesmen.


Another lady who drew my attention.  She was dressed in her only go-to-church dress but didn’t fit in with the other Mercedes owners.  She had her invitation but spent more time at the caterers tables than looking at new cars.  I even saw her loading up her purse with shrimp.  I’m guessing that she won some money on a lottery ticket and bought a Mercedes.  She now attends every open house.


I worked the Jewish Women’s Club auction every year and I’m not even Jewish.  They hire the best caterers.  I also worked a Leeza Gibbons wedding.  I was close enough at the church to watch an aide slam her limo car door on the hand of another aide.  For three years, I watched some of the wealthiest young females graduate from the Marlborough Private High School.  Names like, Dodger owner O’Malley, Rockefeller, Doheny—well, you get the picture.  I was glad I had my only suit dry cleaned.


I once worked a private party at a large house in the Mt. Olympus area of Hollywood.  I got an uneasy feeling and refused to work it the following year.  It turns out the resident was suspected of being in the Russian Mafia and was being investigated by Organized Crime Officers.  See–I’m not a whore–I won’t work every job.  I had enough off duty job opportunities that I could pick and choose.  I avoided any job at the Palladium. I spent the first 5 years of my career, on duty, dodging rock and bottles from the rock group crowds that played there.


I once worked a short stint at the Shrine Auditorium guarding the box office.  I remember one day I was on suspension and worked without a gun or badge.  I did have a very sharp #2 Ticonderoga pencil.


Next I’ll discuss some of the better off duty jobs I worked and some that I regretted.  If you know me, you’ll know that I didn’t get rich but my daughter has straight teeth and I still only have one suit.




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