POSTED: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 8:48am
EDINBURG, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — On Monday, Newscenter 23 told you about the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office investigating a home invasion. At that home, officers found two vehicles decked out with red and blue police lights--this is part of an alarming trend of people posing as police officers.
Headlines from across the country illustrate the growing danger of "pseudo cops" committing crimes while posing as police officers.
A skilled imposter can obtain a police vehicle from public auctions that law enforcement agencies hold to get rid of retired police vehicles.
"They'll take control of these vehicles, they'll equip them with lights, they'll equip them with colored strobe lights, and they go about and start committing these types of crimes," explained Lt. Oscar Treviño, spokesperson for the Edinburg Police Department.
An online search on amazon.com reveals just how simple it is to purchase police lights for your vehicle. Hundreds of results come up, with a range of styles and prices--some cost less than $20.
It's illegal to display these lights on your car, but criminals are notorious for ignoring the law.
"Anybody can purchase them online," said Treviño. "Anybody can go to an auto parts store and purchase red flashing lights and install them in their vehicles, and it's very difficult for the public to determine whether these vehicles are actual detectives from local law enforcement agencies or if they're imposters."
Edinburg Police Department has a policy against their unmarked police vehicles making traffic stops, so if you're ever pulled over by a vehicle that only has the red and blue lights, it's unlikely that they're a legitimate officer.
Pseudo cops often target drivers that are in remote or isolated locations, which is why you need to know how to react if you're ever caught in this situation.
"The first thing you should do is either call 911 or call the local police department where the jurisdiction lays where you're at," Treviño explained. "Let them know that someone is trying to stop you and you're trying to verify if it's an actual legit police officer. And while you're doing this, try to drive to a public area that is well lit. That is the most important thing you can do."
Lt. Treviño also stated that the public forgets they have the right to ask an officer to show their credentials or another form of identification if they have any doubts that the officer is legitimate.