View Full Version : My encounter with a Nassau County Police detective today

2007-01-02, 11:14 PM
I received a call from a NCPD detective. He was from the intel unit of the anti-terrorism department. He told me that I was spotted while spotting in Costco parking lot (no pun intended); and he traced me from my licence plate. He had already done a pretty thorough investigation on me by visiting my photos on pbase and reading my various comments on a.net. The reason for the call, he told me, was that some of the captions on my photos contained too much technical details to "make him nervous".

I asked for examples and he pointed out this photo, which contatined the caption of "RWY 31R" . The URL is http://www.pbase.com/mugong/image/55975967. According to him, this allowed others to quickly identify whick JFK runway can handle what type of aircraft; and to him, this was too much easy info for the potential terrorists.

I found this to be somewhat amuzing so I assured him that this was probably the least amount of technical info. I pointed out that since he had visited a.net, he sure must have seen many photos there containing the same kind of info as which aircraft was taking off or landing on such and such runway at such and such airport. So this is a very common practice for the spotters; and this kind of info is readily available through many public channels. He countered that we shouldn't be so readily provide this kind of info; and every effort would help to make the life "a bit more difficult" for the bad guys. Realizing there is not much a point discussing the finer details with him, I agreed to "be careful" about what I will write.

Then the topic shifted to using Costco for spotting and spotters in NY area. I told him about this site and the fact that we feel our presence at these sites adds more watchful eyes for any illegal activities. He didn't disagree with me but suggest that maybe we should contact the Port Authority so that an area within the airport can be cleared for us for spotting. :-).

To be sure, he told me a few times that what I did was entirely legal and he understood that it's just a hobby of mine. He said that he considered the case closed and we finished the conversation.

Any thoughts and comments?

2007-01-02, 11:45 PM
I think it's a shame that he implied that we need Port's permission when off airport grounds in a public place. His insinuation that knowing or mentioning the approaching runway as something that makes him "nervous" jsut shows the amount of ignorance in regards to the hobby.

My hope is that he (the detective) doesn't actually feel that way, but used it as an excuse to follow up and get thoselast few obvious details to complete his [what should be] minor investigation.

2007-01-03, 12:33 AM
A few questions first how would he know you had pictures on pbase? Pbase doesn't ask for SSN numbers that would link you those pictures. Plus with all the other photos hosting sites why would he choose Pbase only? A.net perhaps you can do a search on names but again A.net doesn't contain that much personal information that he could link your background to your pictures. I'm also curious that after he visited A.net and saw the other photogs in this area that none of us were called??

Lastly these guys don't call they come and pay you a visit to read your body language. I'm not entirely sure your story is 100% on the level. Either someone is playing a joke on you or something is fishy with your story. Sorry dude I'm not buying this as fact. Can you provide the name of the NCPD detective? I have a buddy on the force I'd like to help calm the detectives concerns

2007-01-03, 12:35 AM
very true. a lot of people have pictures on both a.net and j.net with just as much, or in some cases, more of that "nervous making" information.

USAF Pilot 07
2007-01-03, 02:19 AM
Maybe he put your name in google and found your pbase pics?

Tommy, the vibe I get from JZ1s post is that the cop probably realizes JZ1 isn't a threat, especially after seeing all his pics and checking his background, but is either following up on something given to him, or just thought he was doing the "right thing" by alerting JZ1 to the possibility of what he thought was something that could help terrorists...

In any case, this detective sounds like he has good intentions, but that he is simply "uninformed" about how harmless spotters and aviation photography are.

Maybe, we can compile a list of links where "technical" information is readily available online, such as http://www.airnav.com, which detail specific airport configurations, approach and departure procedures etc...

Then if anyone ever receives an e-mail such as the one above, or ever wanted to clarify how harmless spotting is, they could POLITELY provide the list of links where all sorts of stuff is available, all the while explaining themselves and the hobby, and try to open that person up to the reality of how spotting is not a crime and doesn't support terrorism...

2007-01-03, 03:31 AM
JZI, did you refer this person to NYCA?


2007-01-03, 06:12 AM
Hmm interesting story. I had an encounter with what probably was a NCPD detective back in Sept. Since the car was not marked and they were in plainclothes.


They didn't do much interrogating just asked me what I was doing ran my info and basically left. Tommy raises some good points it sounds like a joke may have been played on you. When I got hassled at ISP SCPD Dect and Homeland security came a knocking. As for the runway information stuff I would think Al Qaida doesn't need a website. At this point they probably know the details of JFK probably better than anyone.

2007-01-03, 10:11 AM
Hey's another quesiton why on earth would anyone answer such questions over the phone? How would one know the person your talking to is really a cop. I was speaking to my buddy this morning he's very curious as to know what detective would do something like this over the phone.

2007-01-03, 01:42 PM
Hi, thx for all the replies.

Tommy A: I think he is a genuine cop. I am also too busy to cook up a story like that. His name is Calvert. You can have your source check it out.

I do have my name on Pbase. In fact, when I googled my name, my pbase acct comes up on top. I think that's how they find my photos.

Senga: I did refer him to nycaviation.net.

2007-01-03, 02:04 PM
Hi, thx for all the replies.

Tommy A: I think he is a genuine cop. I am also too busy to cook up a story like that. His name is Calvert. You can have your source check it out.

I do have my name on Pbase. In fact, when I googled my name, my pbase acct comes up on top. I think that's how they find my photos.

Senga: I did refer him to nycaviation.net.

You should be wise next time someone calls you and says they are a cop not to give out information over the phone and request a face to face meeting.

Matt Molnar
2007-01-03, 02:09 PM
I don't want to answer for JZ1, but this doesnt' seem terribly odd to me. Type in his name on Google, and the first four links point to his PBase galleries, and #10 is his Airliners.net profile. It's not out of the ordinary for the police to follow up with a phone call for something that isn't necessarily a crime or an urgent matter. A cop seeing this and realizing he's probably not a threat, then following up with a phone call rather than showing up at his home or office, is the best sequence of events we can ever hope for in a situation like this.

It probably went something like this:
-- Costco shopper calls NCPD, reports man photographing planes, passes on his license plate.
-- Cops respond to the scene, he's already gone, they decide to follow up later.
-- Detective runs a check on his registration to find his name, address, phone number, outstanding warrants, parking tickets, etc.
-- Detective Googles his name, first link is pictures of planes.
-- Detective, seeing this guy is probably legit but having to follow up anyway, gives him a call to discuss.

It's too bad that this is the case, but the world being what it is, I think this is as good as it's going to get. The cops have to follow up when a citizen reports criminal or suspicious activity. Even if our efforts to spread awareness and goodwill about the hobby are wildly successful, we cannot expect to not encounter law enforcement. The best we can hope for is that police will not automatically assume we are Mohammed Atta when interacting with us.

2007-01-03, 08:37 PM
I don't think the detective implied you needed the Port's permission but suggested an area within the airport.

Perhaps NYCA can contact the detective an offer a presentation to his group on what the NYCA is.

I wouldn't have offered any information over the phone as you can't be sure the person you are speaking to is actually who they say they are.

2007-01-03, 09:28 PM
The first thing that your cop had to do, was to inform that 'concerned citizen' that aviation photography is not a crime and its perfectly legit.