Traffic stops: a key to catching criminals


Posted Sat, Mar 9, 2013


An Aurora police car at an intersection. Photo by S.L. Alderton

DAY WATCH: An Aurora police car at an intersection. Photo by S.L. Alderton.

 AURORA, Colo. — Most drivers know the feeling of frustration that comes when a cop pulls them over for having a dim headlight or an expired temporary tag. But for police officers, these traffic stops are anything but random. In fact, as a patrol with District 2 Officer Jared Krieger shows, sometimes something as small as a broken taillight can uncover a whole trail of crime.

When Krieger is not on a specific call, he uses his time to look for people with arrest warrants on their records. One of his favorite ways to do this is by watching for suspicious cars on the road, cars he might have good reason to pull over. So what counts as a suspicious car?

“You kind of get a feel for the area, and if you feel that a car doesn’t really match the area, or if you know that style car may be related to gang activity,” that’s a signal to watch the car, he said. “Big rims, certain stickers on the vehicle, if the car looks like it’s worn down, defective, if the license plates not showing properly–those are all things that may lead up to probable cause…to at least see who’s in the car, and maybe you can stop the vehicle.”

If a car matches this description, Krieger enters the license plate number into a computer. This tells him the name and residence of the car’s owner, whether or not they have a valid driver’s license, and any police records they have. If the owner of a car has an arrest warrant on their record, Krieger can pull the car over regardless of whether the driver is actually breaking any traffic rules at the moment–although he said he prefers to have a more obvious reason for stopping someone.

Although this type of criminal profiling doesn’t produce results every time, some minor traffic offenders do turn out to be major lawbreakers. For example, jaywalking may seem to be one of the tamest crimes on the books, but Krieger said it often masks something more serious.

“When we stop those people, there’ve been numerous times when there’s been something up with them,” he said. “They’ve had numerous police contacts…they’ve been contacted by the police before for possibly burglarizing houses, they have probation hits, they have court order violations–there’s usually a reason that they’re walking, especially in cold weather.”

He even described one incident when he stopped someone for jaywalking and found, after searching for his name, that he was an attempted murder suspect on the run.

In Aurora, traffic stops don’t just make money for the police; they can also make catching criminals a bit easier. And while that may not be much comfort to the law-abiding citizen with flashing lights in their rear-view mirror, at least it shows that there’s a method to the madness.

I Got a Ticket for THIS?

For those of you who are not criminals, not every traffic violation will earn you a ticket. Every city and county has different rules for traffic penalties, and in Aurora police are given a certain amount of discretion on when and how to penalize someone. Certain violations always have to be penalized. For example, driving without a valid license will not only earn you a ticket, but will most likely earn you a tow fee and a trip to the impound lot. However, although having an expired tag on your car is a good enough reason for police to pull you over, they won’t always give you a ticket for it, especially if there’s nothing else on your record.

For a helpful guide through the maze of Colorado traffic law, you can look through the Model Traffic Code here:


About S.L. Alderton

S.L. Alderton is an MSU Denver student majoring in magazine journalism.

View all posts by S.L. Alderton

11 Responses to “Traffic stops: a key to catching criminals”

  1. Grace Says:

    I like that you have a link at the end so that we can all be better drivers. Really like the story!


  2. Davy Says:

    Great story and very good spin on the story. Great endina and subheadings.


  3. Stephanie V. Coleman Says:

    Interesting insight into tactics used by police officers. Nice addition of the website for more information.


  4. Jen Sasser Says:

    I liked this story! Very interesting that cops will use the smallest indicators to find people with warrants. Very informative!


  5. Emily Pennetti Says:

    Good story liked the part about jay walking. i won’t ever jay walk again at least in aurora


  6. Andrew Says:

    I didn’t know they took all of these things into account when considering pulling someone over. Funny that a jaywalker could be caughtand found with a much more severe crime.


  7. J.R. Johnson Says:

    Very cool perspective in your story. I also like how you broke it up at the end.


  8. Ted Says:

    Interesting take on this. I enjoyed reading your article. good link at the end, and the “I got a ticket for THIS” section is a good way to close up.


  9. A A Says:

    I like the different perspective taken on traffic stops


  10. Maureen Says:

    i guess that guy regrets being the only person ever busted for jay-walking ever. what a dumb-dumb. haha. good story. well written.


  11. Ashley Hattle Says:

    You eased my mind a little bit about campus police and what they’re up to! I got pulled over for running a stop sign when no one was around and looking back I can see why that was suspicious.


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