Sunday, January 30, 2011

Park Rangers and Stake Outs Part I

Waking up on these cold winter mornings reminds me of the fact that no matter what you are told it is not natural to be awake to see the sunrise.  I agree that a sunrise can be a beautiful sight with the first false dawn light followed by a brightening of the horizon and then the first glimpse of the sun revealing the start of a new day.  A good sunrise can be the source of inspiration for poetry and renewing of the soul.  I guess this all has been spoiled for me by the times I had to witness sunrises after sitting up all night on stake outs while attempting to remain unseen in the hopes of catching humans involved in illegal activities.

A stake out operation is utilized when law enforcement officers have identified a location where crimes are occurring and they want to catch the culprit in the act of that crime.  It is can be a very labor and time intensive and times an expensive endeavor that can continue over long periods of time.  Movies and television depict stake outs as being conducted from hotel rooms or apartments with the officers using sophisticated recording and viewing equipment exchanging quick repartee and eating pizza.  In the real world of a park ranger if you are lucky you will be in a support vehicle some distance away from the actual stake out site while the less fortunate ranger lies in wait in the woods either during the winter freezing or in the summer covered in sweat and insects for hours.  Physical activity can be very restricted since any movement in a woodland environment will give away your location and either blow the operation or place you in danger.

As a National Park Ranger charged with protecting park resources and visitors we often had to resort to stake outs in attempts to catch criminals in their natural habitat committing their nefarious acts.  Crimes that called for stake outs ranged from wildlife and plant poachers, drug dealers, marijuana growers, auto burglars (or car clouters as they are known to rangers), sexual predators, relic hunters, drag racers, and vandals.  Organizing and conducting stake outs took time and were not always productive.  I would say that 80% or more of such operations did not result in catching anyone the first time.  

More later:

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