Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Stupid Criminals, part 1

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

Just about everybody is aware that criminals are not the smartest individuals on the planet. If you doubt me just check out the web sites and TV shows that show crooks at their worst. If you spent any time around the criminal element you’re not amazed, but you’re shocked when a jury returns a verdict of not-guilty. The jury’s reasoning is nobody’s that stupid?


Well, let me tell you that after 35 years of working the streets, mostly in Hollywood, yea, they are that dumb and they are reproducing at an alarming rate. I’m going to describe some of the stupid criminal offenses I investigated.


I responded to a radio call of a taxi cab robbery on the eastside of Hollywood. It was after midnight. I drive up and the cab driver is standing outside his cab. He tells us that he picked up a fare in front of a bar on Hollywood Boulevard. The fare directed the cab driver to this residence and upon arrival, the fare/suspect told the cabbie, “I have a gun give me your wallet and any cash you have.”


The cab driver gave the suspect his wallet and money then watched as the suspect ran between the houses. My partner began taking the report and I surveyed the crime scene. I found a wallet in the back seat and proudly told the cabbie that at least he left your wallet. The cabbie looked at the wallet and declared, “That’s not mine!” 


 I looked inside the wallet and found a CDC card with a picture. CDC stands for California Department of Corrections. That’s right, it was the suspect’s prison ID card—and his picture was identified by the cabbie as the guy who robbed him. The suspect ran east between the houses. Now I’m not the smartest cop on the planet, but I did know that a halfway house was one block east of us. A halfway house is a home for paroles released from prison.


We drove to the next block and the director told us our parolee had just come home. He’s now looking at an additional five years of state aid by the state of California. Duh, if you rob someone don’t leave your ID at the crime scene.

 It was late into my shift and I needed to write a ticket. It was the end of the month and my sergeant was on my case because I had written only one ticket all month. I’ll admit that I hated writing tickets and only wrote enough to keep my sergeant from following me around all night. I see this car commit a traffic violation and I figure that’s an easy ticket. I won’t even have to go to traffic court on my day off. We stop the violator and he gets out of his car. The usual conversation occurs. He admitted the violation and produces his driver’s license. Above the violators right ear is a hand rolled marijuana cigarette. At the time this, was a felony and the violator was arrested. During the booking process, I asked him why he smoked marijuana and he replied, “It makes me more alert.”  Except when stopped by the cops.

Crooks who drive are also just as dumb.  On more than one occasion a suspect would commit a robbery and as the officers were taking the report the suspect would drive by. It went something like this:

Officer, “What kind of car was the suspect driving?” 

The victim would look around and say, “It was just like that car. Wait, that’s the car and the guy that just robbed me.”

Most non-police people think cops eat a lot of donuts. If a cop does eat a donut you can bet it won’t be a white powered donut. Blue wool uniforms and white power don’t mix. The public bases their conclusion on the fact that they see two or three cop cars parked at a Winchell’s, or Coopers Donuts. I just aged myself.


Today’s cops hang out at Starbucks or Goldstein’s Bagel shop. Most cops don’t eat donuts, but almost all drink coffee. Be honest—just about everyone gets a coffee break. I won’t even get into some of today’s cops ordering a cup of coffee with the word latte in it, or with a squirt of this or a 1/2 and 1/2 of that. Ordering a cup of coffee shouldn’t take 12 words and what’s with that little sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers.

Today’s cops are a whole new breed.

 Ok, back to my Ramblings. I’m working A.M. Watch, you know that 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. nightmare. We’re going to need some caffeine to get through the night. After Roll Call, we drive to the Yum-Yum donut shop at Melrose and Highland. We drive into the parking lot and are greeted by the baker. He’s yelling something in Spanish. My knowledge of the Spanish language is to tell a suspect to put his hands up and that his mother is a member of the world’s oldest profession. All I understand him saying is black guy and robbed. He’s pointing toward the alley. I guess our coffee break is going to have to wait.


We drive into the alley and see two black guys pushing a car. They finally get it jump started and jump in. We stop them. Yep, they had just robbed the donut store. Ok, not everybody I arrested was a Rhodes Scholar, but come on—don’t rob a place and then find out your car won’t start. Double dumb, the driver was arrested once before for robbing this same donut store. I think my commendation said that I have superior knowledge of crime trends, keen observation skills and outstanding tactics. Reality, I just wanted a cup of coffee.


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