A plot device I have seen in more than one novel of the Tom Clancy genre has agents of the Dark Evil Empire cruising along on their way to do something Really Bad when they commit some trivial traffic violation and then a local cop pulls them over.
Of course, at this point, the reader begins to breathe a sigh of relief thinking that the cops will discover their plans, but the next thing that happens is that the cop dies in a hail of machine gun fire before he gets to the car, never knowing what the bad guys were hiding. And the story goes on.
This makes me wonder what really is the most sinister criminal plan foiled by a random traffic stop.
At first thought, it seems like there would be lots of big league drug busts that would fall in this category, and maybe some high profile felons on the run caught, but what about Really Bad Stuff?
(Not sure if there is a solid answer to this, so if it needs to go to IMHO, please move.)
When I was life guarding many, many years ago, a cop pulled a fellow over into our parking lot. As soon as the offender’s car stopped, he got out and ran into the woods. I don’t remember how long it was before they were able to search the car, but when they finally did, they found several pounds of cocaine.
The cop said the offender failed to signal for a turn, and he was just going to give him a warning.
“He put the body in the back of his pickup … A short while later, state troopers saw that the rear license plate was missing from his truck and tried to pull him over. After a 20-mile chase, he ran into a light pole , and was arrested. Within hours, he confessed to killing Ms. Bresciani and 16 other women.”
Constitutional Nitpick, but there is a difference between a “random” stop and a “routine” stop.
A routine stop would be where the driver committed some sort of violation: speeding, broken tail light, driving on the sidewalk, etc. A random stop is much more rare, and is only lawful when part of a plan to check every Xth car for vehicle inspection or drunk driving or the like. Generally speaking, American cops cannot stop cars at random.
Warren Jeffs was caught because of a routine traffic stop.
As a prosecutor working in a community on the 1-80 interstate, relatively large amounts of drugs are often found due to routine traffic stops, but our officers, particularly the highway patrol, are well trained to look for the signs.
I admit being casual with the word “random” – as a clarification, the intent of the OP was about folks who get stopped in some fairly commonplace fashion (e.g. going a couple of miles over) unrelated to their true crime.
This thread mentioned three or four serial killers… I’d wager there have been plenty more caught by accident, or who had contact with police in the middle of their crime for some relatively innoccuos reason and were allowed to go on their way. Richard Allen Davis, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Arthur Shawcross are three examples that come to mind. Berkowitz – the alleged Son of Sam – was caught because of a parking ticket issued for parking too close to a hydrant. Wayne WIlliams – the alleged Atlanta Child Murderer – first came to police attention when they found his car stopped on a bridge with its lights off.
But the OP asked about criminals whose deeds were foild by accidental police intervention, and none of these cases apply.
(yikes, my post count just hit #666 with a post about serial killers… that can’t be a good sign…)
Since it’s known that most serial killers keep on killing untl they are caught or die, I think arresting them does stop future crime. Remember, after Ted Bundy escaped from prison, he went to Florida (home of Old Sparky) and killed three more people, his last victim being 12 years old!!! Stopping serial killers at a traffic stop prevents their future crimes.
You are saying that this thread should only be about people being arrested for crimes they haven’t committed yet? Wasn’t that the plot of a Tom Cruise movie?
Except for something like the Millenium plot it would be nearly impossible to tell if someone is going to commit a crime. Some of the arrests for gun possesion across the country may prevent a future crime but it is not possible to tell. Stopping a serial killer does not seem to me to be that far from what the OP is looking for.
He was stopped for either not having a plate or having one that was flapping in the wind. After he started acting squirrely a gun was found on him (or in the car, I don’t remember which). He was in jail on the weapons charge when his name was linked to the crime (VIN on the rental truck). The traffic stop at least stopped a major nationwide manhunt. I’m sure he had some bolthole waiting somewhere in the country.
There is absolutely no doubt that had Peter Sutcliffe not been arrested, he would have killed again, and very likely the victim would have been the prostitute who was in the car with him at the time of his arrest, remember that he had the murder weapons on him, he was not carrying them because they resembled jewelry.