The Call Box

The Call Box: Learning to Detect

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD                                                    June 3, 2018

The year was 1959, the Dodgers playing at the coliseum are about to start a world series. I was newly assigned to Metro Division and on a one-month training loan to Newton Detectives, (nicknamed Shootin’ Newton). My partner, mentor is Sergeant Bill Pinkston (Pinkie). His specialty was Business Burglary. He was an old timer and very good at what he did. 

He never lectured. I just watched, listened and learned. 

In area, Newton is one of the smallest divisions, just South and East of downtown L.A. What it lacks in size it makes up for in crime. The area contained the usual residential and small businesses however the entire East side was warehouses, loading docks and light manufacturing. 

One morning “Pinkie” handed me an evidence report regarding a recovered firearm taken in one of “his” burglaries in 1948. He told me if I wanted to be a detective, I should detect. “Find the owner,” he said, then left to go to court.  

I assumed by now the owner/victim would be gone and I was correct. He had been a broker for a meat packing company and neither he nor the company were any longer there. The new tenants had no information but one of the neighboring business men remembered him. Said he left/retired and moved East. He did recall that he had a son who sold real estate. 

The California State Real Estate Board had only one person with that last name and he was my guy. He remembered his father’s burglary and gave me his number in “Sun City” or whatever. The conversation went something like this:


Charter_Arms_BulldogVictim: Hello         

Me: This is Detective Ed Meckle, LAPD. I would like to speak to Mr. “Victim.” 

Victim: Speaking, how can I help you?       

Me: We recovered your gun

Victim: (silence)         

Me: Hello?       

Victim: What gun?         

Me: The one you reported stolen in 1948. 

Victim: You found it?     

Me: Yes Sir, we have been working the case full time for the last 11 years and finally found it. 

Victim: Tell me you are kidding.   

Me: O.K. I’m kidding.

Victim: I thought things like this only happened in the movies. 

I released the gun to the son.


Pinkie had an interesting habit of jotting down names/DOBs (dates of birth)/and drivers licenses numbers of selected people we talked to during the day. When we went back to the office at end of shift, he would go off to do other paper work while I called R&I to “run” everyone on the list. I called records and identifications division to check them for felony wants or warrants. Usually the list numbered 20-25 people. 

This one evening I told him as follows: 

“Remember the skinny old guy with the eye patch from the flophouse on Central? Well, he is wanted for escaping from a prison train in Texas in 1929. How about that! Want to go pick him up?” 

Pinkie thought for a few seconds. “Let’s get him in the morning.”

At the boarding house the next morning, the landlord said. “I bought this place in 1945 right after the war. He was living here then. When you guys left yesterday you were barely out of sight and he was packed and gone. Damnedest thing—he lived in that one room for who knows how long.”

And like a wisp of smoke from an old fashioned locomotive, he was gone.