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Thread: Law enforcement encounter at COSTCO parking lot

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    Senior Member Aviation.High.Guy's Avatar
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    Law enforcement encounter at COSTCO parking lot

    On 12/23 I was capturing some great images at the Costco parking lot- aircraft short final for JFK RWY 31R. The moon had risen in the afternoon Northeast sky, so I was getting some "extra production value" for my efforts. Its was sunny, crisp and ripe for good picture taking. A fun day, right? After shooting for a little while outside of my parked car, I noticed a uniformed Nassau officer observing me from his unmarked cruiser. He finally stepped out and approached me. He asked what I was doing, where I came from, what I do with the photos. The expected questions, ya know. One sort of funny thing he threw at me was "I noticed that you photographed two consecutive JetBlue planes. Do you only shoot JetBlue?" First time I was ever asked that. It's not like we can control the sequence so, not sure what law enforcement could learn from that question. Anyway, the officer warmed up to me once he realized I was no threat. He let me in on the fact that this concerned citizen "George C." had reported me by 911. Whoa. That kind of spooked me and now I'm a little reluctant to go back to that spot. I know there's no rational reason why I shouldn't, but I guess it's just that now I associate that place with the hassle of being reported to the police. Anyone else have an experience like this at the parking lot?

  2. #2
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    this is nothing new. For several years we sorta abandoned the Costco Lot, but in the recent year we have migrated back to that location. Its inevitable whatever location you might be shooting from that some "concerned" citizen will call the police. Though I have noticed police encounters have been a little less frequent. Don't hesitate to go back there. Your not doing anything wrong.
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    Senior Member Aviation.High.Guy's Avatar
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    Thanks man.

    Quote Originally Posted by eric8669 View Post
    this is nothing new. For several years we sorta abandoned the Costco Lot, but in the recent year we have migrated back to that location. Its inevitable whatever location you might be shooting from that some "concerned" citizen will call the police. Though I have noticed police encounters have been a little less frequent. Don't hesitate to go back there. Your not doing anything wrong.

  4. #4
    Senior Member yankees368's Avatar
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    The only thing is that if a Costco employee or manager asks you to leave, you must do so. It is private property. Other than that, you are good!
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Cary's Avatar
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    The officer was just concerned that you were photographing two B6s in a row

    In parking lots like Costco, I usually like to just hang low in my car and shoot out the window (besides the fact that I am usually just exhausted after a long drive). The less people that see me, the less chance a paranoid "concerned citizen" sees me :)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cary View Post
    The officer was just concerned that you were photographing two B6s in a row

    In parking lots like Costco, I usually like to just hang low in my car and shoot out the window (besides the fact that I am usually just exhausted after a long drive). The less people that see me, the less chance a paranoid "concerned citizen" sees me :)
    Or we can just tell him how Senga does it.
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    Senior Member Cary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eric8669 View Post
    Or we can just tell him how Senga does it.
    Cloaking device?
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  8. #8
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Nice handling of that situation, and I agree with what others have said, I usually try to keep a low profile myself. I got my start at the Costco lot, glad you got some nice shots! Odd question about the 2 B6's in a row, sounds like he was just fishing for info

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    Senior Member Aviation.High.Guy's Avatar
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    Thanks Mega. When I get to know some folks from the site I would like to meet up for some spotting. I've been planespotting since childhood .LGA and JFK had great observation decks. My first off-airport site was under and around the approach lights to JFK 22L we would ride our bikes down there as kids in the late 70s. Shot Kodachrome and 8mm movies. One time we did a little digging around by the approach lights and found aluminum relics from the 1970s EAL flight 66 crash of a 727 from windshear. Still have some small pieces with the famous EAL Blue and Teal colors. Got back into the hobby in my 40s. With more photography experience under my belt and a rediscovered interest.


    Quote Originally Posted by megatop412 View Post
    Nice handling of that situation, and I agree with what others have said, I usually try to keep a low profile myself. I got my start at the Costco lot, glad you got some nice shots! Odd question about the 2 B6's in a row, sounds like he was just fishing for info

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    Senior Member gonzalu's Avatar
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    Nah, do what I do... put up a tent, a big sign that says "I am taking pictures of planes" and "Free Beer" and "Salty Nuts"

    That will insure you go unnoticed!

    Once I got into a seriously heated argument AT (inside) the Costco and spilled out onto the parking lot with a lot of choice words exchanged and lots of threats back and forth 9yes, I did NOT scale down the situation and was just as belligerent) and after 15 minutes or so, we finally split up and went our separate ways. I went back to spotting and he went back to being a penis...

    NOT A SINGLE PERSON watching the incident, out of about 50, ever called the cops or was concerned for my safety or the safety of the other low cell count organism. I then spent about 20 minutes more spotting when an officer approached us for spotting as someone was "concerned for the planes"

    What can I say, people's views of the world are skewed. THe "concerned citizen" is nothing more than Johnny Wannabe needing to stroke his ego that he will catch Osama Bin Laden in the act and be a hero.

    "See Something, Say Something" is great but also heightens the desire of ordinary humans to be heroic and we all know how powerful a drug that can be in the right hands

    As Cary said... STEALTH is the best medicine and smiling and interacting readily is also advisable... Enjoy the hobby.
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    Senior Member Zee71's Avatar
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    Yeah.........I recall a few weeks ago a bunch of us were at Costco and some guy was shopping with his wife. As they were returning to their car which was parked a few cars down from us, took out his cell phone and took photo's of us I believe. Nothing transpired, and no cops ever arrived to question us. Then recently again while at Panera this time, some guy with his gal took pics of a couple of us with his cell phone as well (I saw him in the act, and waved (knowing he was another jerk without any guts to come over and ask .... why are you taking photos of planes). I would be more than enthusiastic to educate the individual and talk plane spotting. FYI - I did take a photo of his car :P

    We shouldn't be detoured from taking photos and enjoying our hobby.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    I would cause a massive auto crash on Rockaway Blvd by pulling an illegal u-turn to get into the Costco lot if I EVER saw a 'free beer' sign and a tent, so if you decide to do that Manny prepare for a guest

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    Manny, forgot to mention the fresh fish. :)
    It's hard to take chances but sometimes it's better if you do

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    Senior Member RWB's Avatar
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    One thing I started doing this year when asked for an ID by Airport Police was to ask for the report/case number, it raises some eyebrows but since I'm nice enough to have my rights violated for engaging in a perfectly legal activity, I'd like a record of it, and they have to provide it!. Plus the persons name who called will be on the report. And I suggest that maybe the dispatcher should start asking the caller if they know of an actual law that prohibits photography.

    Personally I use high-profile technique, I'm standing in the bed of my truck, camera in hand, another on a tri-pod on the roof just for effect with the handheld scanner.
    PANTS UP, DON'T LOOT!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Cary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RWB View Post
    One thing I started doing this year when asked for an ID by Airport Police was to ask for the report/case number, it raises some eyebrows but since I'm nice enough to have my rights violated for engaging in a perfectly legal activity, I'd like a record of it, and they have to provide it!. Plus the persons name who called will be on the report. And I suggest that maybe the dispatcher should start asking the caller if they know of an actual law that prohibits photography.

    Personally I use high-profile technique, I'm standing in the bed of my truck, camera in hand, another on a tri-pod on the roof just for effect with the handheld scanner.
    With the caveat, as others have stated, that Costco is a private lot, where spotters have been run off by Costco employees in the past. So, not a perfectly legal activity, unless you're Manny, and can do your Costco shopping while spotting at the same time
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