Copyright 2017 by Gary Jenkins
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Published March 2017 by Gary Jenkins
I must acknowledge the following folks for their courage and dedication to duty. We all sacrificed many nights, holidays and weekends to make Kansas City, and the rest of the country, a safer and more civilized place. Robert “Pat” Pattison, Larry Weishar, Billy Trollope, Ray Kinney, Robert “Bobby” Arnold, Harold “Vito” Nichols, Lee “Lee Boy” Floyd, Lynn Kinder, Tommy Joe Walker, Charles “Chuck” Lidge, Tommy Black, Galen Heinan and many others who worked in the LEIU of the Kansas City, Police Department.
Most crime films and TV shows depict the art of moving and fixed surveillance as if the police officers never “take a burn.” Now, admittedly, a fixed surveillance is usually easy to conduct without fear of being caught, but I have taken a burn, even on a fixed post. I have seen movie situations where the detective follows his target alone at night, with no other cars around, through empty streets and never be spotted. The TV detective can follow the target through crowded city traffic patterns and never get cut off or caught by a red light. My experience is that these situations almost never happen, unless the officer is following someone who is drunk or so high they should not be on the street. Oh, and the person who has nothing to hide is usually easy to follow. In this short book I want to help the reader understand the real story of how to conduct moving and fixed physical surveillances without being caught.
In a fixed surveillance, the officer is watching a stationary target like a house or business. This may be a bar or social club where mob guys are known to meet and hang out, like the Sopranos’ Bada Bing. Or, the detective may watch a criminal’s home because the fixed surveillance can report all visitors or maybe get a pattern on when the target normally leaves and returns. Another fixed surveillance target may be on a business or home that is known to be the target of a burglary or invasion style robbery. The fixed post surveillance may coordinate with a moving surveillance team. When the target leaves or arrives, the fixed post lookout will radio the moving surveillance that their target is either leaving or arriving and give a direction and description of clothing and vehicle. The location for the stationary officer on a fixed surveillance is called the Plant.
One of my first surveillance experiences was when my Sergeant, Larry Weishar, assigned myself and my partner, Bobby Arnold, to learn what a Kansas City Mob member named [+ James S. “Jimmy” Duardi+] was doing with his time. After serving several years for a bribery and extortion conviction, Duardi was recently released from the Federal prison at Leavenworth. Duardi and others had been convicted in a conspiracy to bribe an Oklahoma County prosecutor and sheriff to protect bars with gambling and prostitution operations in the Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees resort area close to Grove, Oklahoma. Sgt. Weishar had a tip that Jimmy was hanging out every day at a south side used car lot called Accessible Motors. Bobby and I were both new in the Intelligence Unit and we had to prove ourselves. The older unit detectives had recently made some fun of Bobby because he claimed he observed Duardi at a local restaurant. In derision, one old time detective informed Bobby that Duardi was in the Federal prison in Leavenworth. Bobby was sure of what he had seen, so he called the Leavenworth prison. He found that Duardi had been assigned to the Leavenworth minimum-security prison farm and was often sent into Kansas City to pick up supplies. He learned Duardi was being released within the next month. Jimmy Duardi became our target with the direction that we were only restricted by our imagination and certain legal guidelines.
To successfully conduct a fixed post surveillance, the operator must get creative. We found Duardi was frequenting this used car lot almost every day. We could not park and watch the car lot without being noticed. Using the frequent drive-by method of surveillance, we noticed he spent a lot of time at the car lot meeting people. We noticed that [+ Forest Hill Calvary Cemetery+], Gregory Ave. and Troost, was directly across the street from the car lot. We approached the cemetery manager and risked the fact that he might know Duardi and rat us out. He exhibited no knowledge of Duardi or the car lot and seemed thrilled to help. We asked him to set up a funeral tent on the southwest corner of the cemetery close to Troost Ave., directly across from the car lot. He agreed and suggested he enclose the tent on all four sides and leave it up for about a week. The first morning, we got out early before the car lot opened, entered the tent, and put together our Pentax K1000 camera, 250 mm lens and tripod. Duardi and the other employees soon arrived. It was not long until we noticed Duardi had a pattern. When Duardi had what we thought was a “dirty” contact, they left the office trailer and talked in the lot. He met professional criminals from all over the U.S. Mostly we never learned what they were doing together, but the photos and knowledge of the relationship proved to be useful in many future situations. One instance I remember was a small truck company owner named James “Jim’ Elgin showed up many times for one of these Duardi parking lot talks. His company would eventually become part of a “bust out” scheme and leave many creditors holding the bag for business debts. We obtained excellent color photos of Duardi and many of his criminal associates. Another result of this daily proximity to our target was that we observed how he walked and held his body, the style of clothes he wore and how he related to others. He always assumed a dominant stance, talked loudly and loomed over people in an intimidating manner.
In another fixed surveillance, the F.B.I. had rented a Plant which was a second-floor apartment across the street from the [+ Virginia Tavern+] located at 1315 Admiral Blvd, the intersection of Admiral Blvd. and Virginia Ave. In Kansas City, the ruling La Cosa Nostra faction known as the Civella Family was engaged in a war with a group of “young Turks.” Three brothers, Carl, Joe and Mike Spero wanted more respect in the form of a high-ranking Teamster position for Mike Spero. Additionally, Carl and Joe Spero wanted to be included in on the gambling book and some fencing activities. The brothers had another incentive. They suspected the Civella faction had ordered a hit on the oldest brother, Nick Spero, a few years back. The Civella family put out a rumor that a professional criminal named Curly Mitts killed Nick Spero over a dispute on the split from a score, and conveniently, Curley Mitts had since been killed and was unable to defend himself. The Spero brothers believed the Civella Family ordered this hit because Nick Spero had incurred the disapproval of the Civella family. He was becoming a power in a Teamster’s local and refused to share any of his illegal proceeds from hijacking trucks. None of the Speros were “made” guys and the Civellas looked down on them as lesser players.
When the Spero/Civella war started, law enforcement’s knowledge of the Spero brothers’ criminal associates was slim. We knew that Carl Spero was a charismatic and respected individual in Kansas City’s criminal underworld. He was known to set up good scores, like stealing from Teamster controlled docks and trailer loads of goods in transit. He had been arrested in a jewelry store heist with other young mob associates. What we did not know was that he was in the heavy construction business and had a crew out stealing equipment like bulldozers, backhoes and Bobcats.
In this surveillance, an undercover officer found an available second-floor furnished apartment facing the tavern. He told the owner that he was part of a travelling surveyor crew for a pipeline and the company wanted to use this as a place to store equipment and for some of the surveyors to use instead of renting hotel rooms. His story explained the several different men carrying bags and cases of equipment in and out of the apartment. In a 2nd floor window facing the tavern, we set up a VHS video camera and a 35 mm for still shots. We found one problem immediately. The terrace area contained a tree that blocked our view of the tavern’s front door. One of our detectives, Ray Kinney, had a good contact with the City Parks and Recreation Department. Ray met with his contact and a few days later the offending tree was cut down, along with radical trimming of the rest of the city-owned trees for blocks around.
Our team ran that fixed post for about two months. We had one crew inside and one chase car outside. We identified several things: (1) the pattern of arrivals and departures on Carl Spero; (2) the different folks that he contacted; (3) descriptions and tag numbers of the vehicles driven by Spero and his associates; and (4) we observed Carl Spero driving a tractor-truck with a low-boy carrying a caterpillar. From this surveillance and other sources, we learned he did business with a basement contractor named Jim Ferron. We interviewed Ferron and learned that Spero invited him to join the Spero crime organization and promised they would move in on the Civella family’s action or criminal activities like gambling and fencing. We would later learn that Ferron thought he was smarter than all these guys and became a cocaine dealer. He will be found murdered within a couple of years. Another case that resulted from these observations was the theft and subsequent recovery of a stolen D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer. An informant came forward and claimed he helped Carl Spero transport this bulldozer when he sold it to a farmer in a southern Missouri rural county. Because of our observations at the tavern, we believed the informant and acted immediately. The sheriff of Bates County soon located a farmer that had recently purchased a D-9. He determined this was the stolen bulldozer. We did not take legal action on this case to protect the source. The bulldozer was recovered and returned to its owners.
We were never discovered on this surveillance. We left this location after three months. This was the summer of 1977 and less than a year later, May 16, 1978, three heavily armed, masked men burst into the Virginia Tavern. They killed Mike Spero and wounded Joe Spero inside and one suspect chased Carl out the front door and shot him as he crossed Admiral Blvd running directly under our old apartment window. Carl and Joe will eventually be killed by members of the Civella faction.
In another location, we rented an apartment with a similar cover story. This Plant was in a rundown, crappy building with many transients. I was sitting with my camera and tripod watching a body shop when I heard a knock on the door. I waited quietly and when I heard some keys jangling, I yelled out and asked who was there. A voice answered, “Maintenance, I need to spay for roaches.” I asked him to give me a few minutes and come back. The camera and equipment was quickly inside their cases and put in a closet. The maintenance man retuned and sprayed in all the usual nooks and crannies for roaches. I noticed his quizzical look when he saw these expensive metal and hard plastic equipment cases and took note of the fact I had no clothes in the closets nor any of the usual cleaning products under the sink or in the bathroom or any food in the cabinets. I am sure he knew what we were doing, but never heard any feedback from the apartment management, nor did our suspects appear to make any change. In regards to encountering roaches in a Plant, Bobby Arnold once took a sleeping bag inside a Plant for warmth. Shortly after he returned the sleeping bag home, he had a roach infestation.
On another fixed surveillance, the Plant was over a liquor store. This apartment was directly across from a biker bar in a rundown area that was in another adjacent suburban city. We took the building owner into our confidence. After about two days, we noticed the activity at this bar dropped off. The Galloping Goose gang members we had seen were absent. Soon, we had a source that frequented the bar and the liquor store report that the building owner had been telling his friends and business associates about renting this apartment to an undercover cop.
In a narcotics investigation, we had an apartment rented to watch the Downtown Office bar while we monitored the bar’s telephone. We maintained constant communication with the Wire Room (the room with the monitoring officers and tape recorders). When they heard something of interest about somebody inside the bar or somebody leaving the bar that was of interest, the Wire Room radioed the Plant. The officers inside the Plant assessed the situation and decided whether the situation required a moving surveillance from the outside surveillance crew or if they should send somebody inside. This tells you the complexity of a combination electronic, fixed and moving surveillance. If the information indicated somebody needed to go inside, the Plant radioed an undercover crew. If they knew somebody of interest was leaving, the Plant alerted the outside moving surveillance crew as to the description and maybe the name of the person leaving, the description of their auto and which way they were heading as they left. In this surveillance, we operated the Plant from about noon until the bar closed at night. Many times, there was no activity either inside the bar or on the phone. On one slow night, one monitoring officer allowed her partner to go home a couple of hours early. Then, she got bored and left the Plant unoccupied about ½ hour before the bar closed. We learned the next morning that an adjacent dry cleaning shop had an arson fire. A witness was found and he described our narcotics target (the owner of the Downtown Office bar) leaving his bar at closing time and throwing a glass bottle though the plate glass window of the dry cleaners, causing an explosion. This officer was in trouble. The witness was a street person who disappeared and the suspect was never prosecuted.
In a gambling investigation, a hidden microphone was installed inside the Kansas City mob social club locally known as The Trap. I spent the 1977 Super Bowl Sunday in the attic of a grade school monitoring the gamblers coming and going. Before the inside microphone could be activated, the Wire Room had to know that one of the named targets had been seen by an officer entering the building. That was the day I ate an entire family size bag of Doritos. When school was in session, the principal told the teachers and staff that we were inspectors looking for dry rot in the building.
The lessons we learned have been that undercover cops must come up with a believable cover story for why they are renting and occupying a Plant. The placing of a few extra cleaning products, dishes and clothing to give the appearance of actual occupation is skillful in an apartment Plant. These are long, boring days for the surveillance officer and a TV is not a good option, in modern times an audio book or podcast will help. A fixed surveillance often yields valuable intelligence that may come into play much later.
After Sgt. Weishar made Duardi our target, we found his home and identified what kind of automobile Duardi was driving. I remember it was a black 1975 Buick. We had already identified Accessible Motors as his main hangout. This car lot was south of midtown Kansas City and located on a busy street named Troost Ave. This was a commercial street running north and south from one end of the city to the other. The street had many traffic lights, went from one lane to two lanes to a lane and one-half with cars parked on the street in many places and businesses lined up on both sides. Additionally, there was no left turn lanes so if you got behind a person turning left into a business, you were trapped until oncoming traffic cleared.
We drove to the car lot about 10:00 a.m. and found his black Buick by the trailer serving as the office. We waited up the street and tried to follow him the first time in one car and soon lost him in the heavy traffic on Troost.
This was in 1976 and the KCPD Intelligence Unit had three cars for eight detectives and two Sergeants. Each Unit car had an undercover radio attached to the inside of the glove compartment. We had no hand-held walkie talkies. We grabbed one of the undercover (“slick”) cars, a 1973 Chevrolet 2-door Nova. We each owned hand-held Citizen Band (CB) radios and brought them from home. I had driven my personal, brand new 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass to work and we each took a radio and these two cars to follow Duardi.
I parked in the cemetery across the street and Bobby set up about a block north. When Duardi left the first time, he went south and immediately turned east on Gregory Blvd. He was gone again. We settled back and soon Duardi reappeared. This time, Bobby moved closer to the car lot and parked in a convenience store at the corner of Gregory and Troost, still south of the car lot. This allowed him to take Duardi easily if he came south and if he turned either east or west onto Gregory. I was slightly north and I could get out of the cemetery and take him north. It was not long before he left again and he turned south. Bobby fell in behind him about a block back with a couple of cars in between. I soon caught up and took over the “eye,” or the car reporting on Duardi’s movements. Bobby sped up and got in front of Duardi by several blocks and waited. Duardi got to 85th and Troost and turned east. Bobby then took over the eye and followed him while I took a side street and paralleled the surveillance until Duardi turned south on Prospect. Bobby continued straight and I took him from the parallel street south on Prospect. Bobby turned south and paralleled Prospect, got ahead of us and waited. I laid back and turned off. Duardi never appeared at this next intersection. When that happens, the surveillance crews divide up the last known area and drive it in grids until they find their target. I started checking the streets and business along Prospect and Bobby turned onto an unmarked street off Prospect. This street was a large driveway dead ending at Booth’s Tow Company lot. That’s where he spotted Duardi’s Buick. We now knew Duardi had some connection to Booth’s Tow Company, a prominent auto towing company with contracts with the city and the police department. We would follow him to that tow company many times in the future. That day ended with Duardi still at Booth’s Tow. We could get close enough to observe Duardi using a phone just inside the office. That is always a good piece of information, where a mob guy uses a telephone.
We were not always successful. It was not long before Duardi noticed something. A few days later, we had the two cars with our CB radios going. We were trailing along south on Troost, then east across 75th street and he turned south on Prospect. He was headed in the general direction of Booth’s Tow, but not on the exact same route. He was taking a route leading into an area with many small warehouses, machine shops, and other small assembly factories. He pulled over into one of those warehouse lots and I drove on by while radioing Bobby to stop and wait until I let him know Duardi was moving again. I pulled over into another parking lot. I should have guessed. He pulled back out almost immediately and as he passed my location he pulled into my parking lot. I lay down on the front seat and he circled my car a couple of times and then left again without a tail. Jimmy Duardi taught us to respect him that day. We would go on to follow him off and on for the next few years. We had his patterns down, we knew where he might show up if we lost him, we knew many places to just sit and wait until he appeared. He had been a mystery before, but not any longer.
This paid off a couple of years later when we stumbled across Duardi and his bodyguard, mob associate Clifford Bishop, driving a pickup out of one of these warehouse areas he had frequented in the past. They were in a pickup we had seen parked at Booth’s Tow Lot. As we got close, we saw the bed was filled with boxes. We followed him a short distance until he stopped in front of a restaurant. This was a small restaurant owned by a mob associate. This man would have understood that Duardi was a made guy and he was not dealing with a legitimate meat company. Shortly after, one of us jumped out and walked by the truck and found the boxes had markings indicating they contained frozen spare ribs. Soon, a restaurant employee came out with a dolly and loaded up 5 boxes of spare ribs. We went back to the warehouse area the next few mornings at about the same time. A few days later, once again we saw Duardi and Bishop enter the parking lot and back up to a dock. They loaded the bed up with the same kind of boxes. We followed him out and got lucky because they drove to a nearby suburb without spotting our tail. We watched as they entered a locally owned grocery store and shortly after an employee came out with a dolly and took all the spare ribs inside. We knew that a legitimate meat business does not deliver frozen meat in an unrefrigerated pickup truck.
We checked the name of the business where they were picking up the ribs and found a sign for J & L Refrigeration Co. We learned this company was owned by James “Jim” Elgin. We had seen Elgin engaged in many parking lot conversations with Duardi at Accessible Motors. We took this to the F.B.I. and before this was over they learned that Duardi had manipulated over $300,000.00 in Teamster pension fund loans for Elgin’s company, J & L Refrigeration. He and Elgin were in the process of making the business go bankrupt, known as a “bust out” scheme. Duardi and Elgin were charged with I.R.S. felonies for their part in this bust out scheme.
Because we learned that this mob character, Jimmy Duardi, was frequenting Booth’s Tow, when an F.B.I. investigator was reviewing bank loans in an unrelated investigation, their antenna tuned up as they found a large loan Booth’s Tow Co. They found the owner of Booth’s Tow had obtained a large loan from the Central Bank of Kansas City, a bank known to be connected to many mob figures and the Teamsters. The Central Bank Board Chairman, Dominic Tutera, was found to have a personal interest in this loan when subpoenaed records revealed he was given an option to buy 25% of the tow company. He was convicted of receiving a personal gain for bank business.
Officers in Kansas City and most areas outside of highly congested areas like New York City, Washington D.C. or San Francisco do not conduct many surveillances on foot. I have found a few instances where developing this skill is useful. Many times, when some subject drives into a parking lot and walks away, the officers must exit their cars and follow to see where the target goes. These instances are usually short and spontaneous so each officer plays these situations by instinct. I was assigned to a situation where foot surveillance was the only method to prevent some rapes and murders. In this case, the target, Vernon Tatum, had no car and used a bus to get around.
Our target, Vernon Tatum, had been caught and convicted of a rape which was part of a serial rape/murder crime pattern. A legal technicality freed him within a short time. After his release, Sex Crimes Sergeant John Cowdry was reviewing rape reports and noticed some similarities in the method of operation, similarities in the victim’s age and physical description, as well as an increase in violence, with one female victim murdered by strangulation. Sgt. Cowdry thought these may be the work of Vernon Tatum and checked the Missouri Department of Corrections. He was correct, Tatum had been released with no restrictions because his case had been overturned. The system failed to notify anybody. Sgt. Cowdry took his observations to the Colonel of Investigations and requested a Task Force be created. The Colonel assigned officers from of Sex Crimes, Special Investigations, Organized Crime Intelligence and Homicide.
The Sergeant from Special Investigations was given command of the task force foot surveillance team. The Sex Crimes Sergeant was given command of the moving surveillance team. The first order of business was to determine where Tatum lived and to find sources living in his neighborhood. The assigned detectives learned that Tatum did not work, was not ever seen during the day and often left his apartment late in the afternoon, returning late at night. Tatum was African-American and lived in an all-black neighborhood about 10 miles east of downtown Kansas City. African-American neighborhoods are very difficult to maintain a police surveillance. It was summer and many kids were out; they would not take long to spot any stranger and the word would spread. Most of the surveillance squad was white, so the close-in work in the neighborhood fell to one of the two black officers on the team. This caused some friction before the surveillance was over. The initial survey of Tatum’s daily habits revealed he always took the ATA bus from the closest bus stop to his apartment. A minister at a nearby church allowed access to the roof for the spotting officer to watch this bus stop.
One of the black officers parked down inside the neighborhood in a place to report when Tatum left. When Tatum left and got to the bus stop, the spotting officer on the church rooftop would report to the auto crews that he was at the stop. The black officer in the neighborhood would join the moving surveillance while the church top spotting officer stayed in position. When he left on the bus, three cars would follow. Quickly we learned he always took the same bus late in the afternoon and he departed that bus upon arrival at the main bus exchange in downtown Kansas City. We had a car crew exit and sit at this bus stop to report which bus Tatum boarded when he left the main exchange. Many times, he would sit and wait until many buses had come and gone until he selected a bus to ride. The first several times he boarded the Country Club bus which took him straight south of downtown. He would get off at different stops each time.
Most times, by the time Tatum arrived at the downtown bus exchange and left again, it was dark. The foot crews all piled into two mobile surveillance cars and to follow Tatum’s bus until he exited. They were dropped off to follow him on foot. Tatum walked and walked and walked for hours though midtown neighborhoods. The area consisted of 1920s and 1930s style 2 to 4 story brick apartments, stone houses separated into apartments and a few bungalows. The area is bounded by commercial streets with main bus lines. I can still remember his rolling gait and it appeared he limped as he walked. He often disappeared between apartment buildings or houses. These were some very tense moments as an officer would advance down the street walking slowly to spot exactly where he was last seen. At times, the foot crews would fan out though the backyards trying to sneak in closer. The multitude of fences and more than a few dogs prevented this action from working very well. Tatum would reappear and continue his walk down the sidewalk. He did this night after night. For a month, we worked 12 hour shifts making sure he was in bed and all lights out before we went home. More than one time, Tatum went back to his apartment, only to leave again around midnight, taking a bus into the downtown area. He may get out and prowl a neighborhood or he may get on another bus that would take him back home. We never saw a real solid pattern on his movements, other than he always left home late in the afternoon, took the bus downtown, then a bus to a neighborhood, exited and walked the midtown neighborhoods until midnight or later most nights. He did make a few trips into Quality Hill, an area of apartment buildings just a few blocks west of downtown.
It was in Quality Hill where quick thinking kept us from being burned. For several nights in a row, Tatum was followed into Quality Hill. He often disappeared between a matched pair of 2 story apartment buildings. Neither of these apartments had balconies but they had street level windows. One officer got into an adjacent building and could look down into the opening between these buildings where he was disappearing. He found Tatum staring up at a window and a light was on inside that apartment. From then on, whenever he went into Quality Hill, an officer drove immediately to the surveillance spot and watched Tatum stare at this apartment. This officer always took a shotgun and was instructed to not allow Tatum to break into this apartment. A day shift research crew learned a single older woman lived in this apartment. This fit the description of all Tatum’s known victims. One night, a foot crew tried to move very close behind Tatum when he disappeared between these Quality Hill apartments. Tatum suddenly reversed his direction and walked back out the same route he took into the area. The officer was confronted in the dark and he quickly turned to the wall and started gagging and faked a puking attack. This area was filled with homeless alcoholics and this activity would not have been unusual. Tatum walked past the officer without more than a glance.
Finally, after a month, we had developed a finely-tuned surveillance team—the spotters inside Tatum’s neighborhood, the spotter on the church roof, the car crews racing around following busses and the foot crew responding to the announcement that Tatum was off a bus and walking. The officer’s nerves were getting frayed and we wondered how long this would last. First, the black officer constantly assigned to sit in the neighborhood told the Sergeant that he wanted off that assignment. He spent many long, boring hours remaining alert in a dangerous neighborhood when Tatum was home while the rest of the team could sit around and smoke and joke or even run errands if they didn’t get too far away and remained in radio contact. Management was thinking of the high cost of overtime. We were ordered to cut back to one 8-hour shift which left at midnight. Within a week of that cutback, a homicide report came to the attention of Sgt. Cowdry. The report stated an older woman living alone in a midtown neighborhood was strangled to death with her telephone cord and she had been raped. This murder happened about 4:00 AM and it fit Vernon Tatum’s previous method of operation. We had seen him prowling around this same building. In this murder, crime scene Investigators found two footprints outside an unlocked window the suspect had opened to achieve entry. The shoe size was close to Tatum’s. They recovered the telephone cord used as a murder weapon. That night we went back to 12 hour shifts. For several days, Tatum exhibited the same daily pattern of activity. He threw us a curve on the last night of this surveillance. He took his usual bus from home to the downtown bus exchange and sat for a while. A moving crew officer exited his car and sat at the bus exchange. We heard that officer report Tatum was on a bus. His radio transmission was garbled. Somebody radioed back for clarification and got no response. Another moving officer reported he thought he saw Tatum on the Country Club bus. We all headed south following the Country Club bus and leap frogging ahead to catch him when he exited. The officer from the bus exchange returned to his car and got on the radio asking where we were. Somebody said that we were behind the Country Club bus. The surveillance crew then heard that guy loudly exclaim, “I said the Quindaro Bus!” A mad scramble occurred because we knew that bus went due west from downtown into Kansas. The entire surveillance changed up and sped west, running red lights and dodging in and around late afternoon rush hour traffic. I happened to be caught behind another car at a red light. Two tourist pedestrians who started to walk across Grand Ave got quite a shock. The inside lane was open and two of our crews flew though the red light. The tourists looked at each other with the husband excitedly exclaiming, “Those cars just ran that light!” At that time, they stepped off the curb when a third car blew though the light. They jumped back onto the sidewalk. As I pulled away they were gaping in shock and horror about what they just saw. In the meantime, the Special Investigations Major and his administrative sergeant were already downtown and they caught up with the Quindaro bus a few blocks after it entered Kansas. They reported they were following the Quindaro bus and the surveillance crew sergeant radioed, “Is he on it?” and the administrative sergeant replied they didn’t know, but they were following. As we all streamed into Kansas, the surveillance sergeant exclaimed loudly over the radio, “Is he on it?’ The reply was, “We got alongside and he is not on this bus.” The surveillance sergeant came back in an exasperated voice, “Well find out where he got off, stop the bus.” The administrative sergeant replied, “We can’t, we are in Kansas” Finally a few blocks later, somebody got in front of this bus and entered it as it stopped at a regular stop. They learned that Tatum had exited the bus many blocks before. We drove back to that area but we never found him. We left and returned to the usual areas in Midtown and downtown before we gave up for the night.
The next morning, we learned that Kansas City, Kansas police officers had received a prowler call late that night in an area close to the bus stop where Tatum was last seen by the Quindaro bus driver. They caught Tatum inside a detached garage. They searched him, incident to his arrest for trespassing, and found a large pocket knife, rubber gloves and a mask that displayed a spider design. A CSI from our crime lab responded to the Kansas City Kansas Police Department and took the mask, gloves, knife and Tatum’s shoes. [+ They matched tool marks from his knife to the tool markings on the telephone cord used to strangle the woman in Kansas City and his shoes contained a distinctive tread pattern that matched the shoe impressions at that same homicide scene.+] Vernon Tatum would be given a life sentence for that murder.
In the aftermath of this massive surveillance, the Sergeant who was so exasperated with the Major and the Admin Sergeant for not stopping the bus inside Kansas, was transferred back to patrol as a punishment. [+ Vernon Tatum+] would spend his life in a Missouri State prison and died in 2016.
In the aftermath, we suspected Tatum had spotted our surveillance and never given a clue that he knew. I am guessing it happened when he noticed the black officer was not sitting in his neighborhood after midnight for a few nights in a row. Figuring that out, he returned home, waited until he saw that car leave and then returned to prowling after midnight and killed his last victim.
A last fact about Vernon Tatum is that the only reason he was on the streets when this surveillance began was because of a legal issue. He had been caught after a crime spree of rape and murder in the early 1970s. The Homicide Unit brought in the Police Department psychologist to help interview Tatum. Dr. Marshall Saper, PhD, was a reserve police officer as well as the department approved psychologist under a contract. Dr. Saper obtained a confession and Tatum was convicted. He appealed and the Appellate court ruled the confession thrown out and that he be remanded and get a new trial. The unfortunate fact was that all the government had was this tainted confession and Tatum went free to commit a series of rapes and murders. I know I was relieved when I learned he died in prison.
Law enforcement officers often use an airplane or helicopter. Because of the expense, aerial surveillance is used only in very important cases. Officers mostly use aerial surveillance as a support for ground crews.
At times, the surveillance may not be important, but since the police helicopter is always patrolling, they are usually available for a quickly developing ongoing situation. An example if this is when we were watching a mob associate named Gene Maggio. We knew he was part of a travelling crew specializing in business burglaries and vending machine coin thefts. We had little knowledge of Maggio’s day to day activities when one intelligence detective drove by his apartment in northeast Kansas City. He called back into the unit and reported Maggio’s car had a U-Haul trailer attached. We scrambled one more crew out so we had as least two cars to see what he was doing. Soon, we saw one of his known crew members, an ex-fireman named Michael Kattou, carrying out a portable TV and Maggio carrying out an armful of clothes on hangers. We watched as they filled the small trailer with household goods and clothes. One car maintained the “eye” while the other waited at the closest main street out of the neighborhood. When Maggio and Kattou left, we took up the moving surveillance by leap frogging and changing off the eye periodically. We radioed back to Sgt. Weishar and he contacted the Helicopter Unit via telephone. The unit commander agreed to help and the regular patrolling helicopter soon contacted us on the radio. We backed off while the chopper crew maintained the eye. Maggio drove south out of Kansas City and was about 50 miles south when the helicopter notified us that they must return for fuel. We moved in closer and took the eye. We kept going south on 71 Highway for another 50-60 miles. We soon had to decide whether to stay on him or pull off. Since we did not know exactly what we were watching, we decided to pull off and notify some friends of ours at the Tulsa P.D Intelligence Unit.
We knew that Kansas City mob members had good criminal contacts in Tulsa and a good route to get there was south on 71 Hwy. then west on I-44. The next day a Tulsa Intelligence officer called our unit and reported he and a small crew had intercepted Maggio and Kattou just west of Tulsa on I-44, followed them into Tulsa, finally catching them moving into an apartment. Over the next year, they periodically monitored their activities. A year or so later, Denton Texas police officers would nail Kattou parked outside a laundromat. As they investigated, they found him in a van with a key making machine, many key blanks suitable for vending machines and other locks and a large amount of coins with the laundromat machine’s coin boxes empty. Tulsa officers learned of this because they were in touch with southwest area police departments and they could relay to the Texas officers the information about Kattou and Maggio. The intelligence that started in KC followed Maggio and Kattou to Tulsa could be used to show a court in Denton, Texas that Michael Kattou was not some ex-fireman that went astray. He was part of a mob-connected professional theft ring. Once exposed to area law enforcement, Maggio moved away.
We later tracked him to Los Angeles, California and then he returned to Kansas City. He would be caught inside a bank trying to drill the safe. We caught him because a snitch revealed that Maggio and a crew were planning a bank burglary. A moving surveillance on Maggio allowed officers to see him casing a Kansas City bank, buying a large industrial drill with a magnet, special steel bits and talking with another known burglar. The original informant told his handler that he did not know the exact location, but Maggio was doing a bank burglary the next Saturday night. We set a massive aerial, fixed and mobile surveillance on the bank. We did not have to do much that night because we knew Maggio and his crew were coming. We just had a car advise when he was leaving his apartment in downtown KC and he radioed the helicopter. The chopper watched him pick up two other men and drive north toward the bank. We had 2 officers inside a pizza joint with a clear view of the bank’s front door, a mobile crew to surround the area, a crew on the roof of a nearby strip mall and a SWAT team for the take down. The helicopter backed off when they pulled into the bank. The rooftop officers reported two men appeared on the bank’s roof and were digging into the roof. Soon the roof top surveillance reported the two men were climbing down from the roof. The pizza joint crew reported the third man drove into the lot and picked up the two men. The helicopter moved back into the area and watched them drive around though adjacent neighborhoods. After about 1/2 hour the crook’s car returned and two men reappeared on the roof and disappeared down inside the bank. We knew they were transmitting on CB radios and they were heard communicating that the outside guy was checking the local neighborhoods. The mobile crew saw the getaway car park on the side of a freeway outer road in a position where he could see the bank lot. He reported via CB to the inside guys that all was clear. A SWAT team was staged inside their van a few blocks away and the order was given to surround the bank. Two mobile crews approached the getaway car and when they heard the SWAT team was in the bank lot deploying around the bank, the mobile officer swooped down on the getaway driver and arrested him without incident.
The SWAT officers found Gene Maggio with a large drill attached to the bank safe via powerful magnet. This arrangement allowed him to use a long bar and apply pressure on the drill as it bore into the safe mechanism. I noted the bank burglars in the Michael Mann film, Thief, used the same kind of drill. All three would be convicted of bank burglary. The getaway driver, a man named Larry Tuso, would be killed in a manner designed to make it look like he committed suicide before he went to jail. Years later, a government informant verified he was intentionally murdered. The other party was a guy nicknamed Popeye. He was not from Kansas City and I do not know what happened to him nor his real name. Gene Maggio was eventually released from prison and died a natural death in 2015. His other partner, Michael Kattou, returned to Kansas City after the Tulsa and Texas tour and opened a body shop. On November 22, 1977 two black men entered the shop and shot and killed Kattou in his office. Speculation was, he was in the cocaine business and had cheated somebody or that he might testify against a mob guy in an ongoing stolen truck situation. I speculate the mob hit because a surveillance of the funeral revealed the only mob person attending was our old friend Jimmy Duardi.
Electronic tools to assist with surveillance have increased in use, availability and reliability. With increased use, courts and legislatures have imposed legal restrictions.
Before GPS technology merged with cell phones and became inexpensive and simple, law enforcement used something called a Hound Dog or a Beeper. In the 1970s, this technology was used sporadically. The Hound Dog was hard to use and not reliable. Plus, we did not want to overuse it for fear we might lose the expensive sending unit. We also didn’t want to get caught and have a court challenge its use without a warrant. The law did not cover its use at the time and we didn’t want to bring attention to the device.
Here is a real-life example of the good and the bad about using the Hound Dog or Beeper. In the winter of 1980 a man named Alex Petrovics (not a real name) was released from the Missouri prison in Jefferson City. He had been convicted out of Kansas City and a Burglary Sergeant, Ron Klousterman, had been responsible for his incarceration. Sgt. Klousterman was contacted by Petrovics’ former wife and she claimed he told her he was “going to get” Sgt. Klousterman. While many bad actors have made these threats toward cops, this one seemed real and Sgt. Klousterman had noticed a stranger parked close to his house recently. He notified his command and they requested the help of the Intelligence Unit. I was assigned to a squad of six detectives, four from Intelligence and two burglary detectives. The two burglary detectives were known to be experts on using the Hound Dog.
We located Petrovics’ 1971 Chevrolet Impala parked on the street at his apartment located in the Kansas City blue collar neighborhood known as the Northeast. Late one night, when we were sure Petrovics was asleep a detective crawled underneath the Impala and attached the sending unit transmitter, a rectangular box that attaches to the frame with a powerful magnet. The sending unit has a 6-inch wire antenna that cannot touch the auto’s undercarriage or the signal will be grounded. After a quick test to hear the periodic beeps in the receiver, we left for the night. The surveillance crew assembled the next afternoon. Sgt. Klousterman briefed the team on the possible locations where Petrovics may be found. We started our shift at 4:00 p.m. and that day, as well as most other days, we found Petrovics at his apartment. The surveillance crew found he had a pattern of leaving around 6:00 PM and driving to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The main trail car had the Hound Dog Receiver installed. This electronic box contains a circular screen back light with green fluorescing light and a large electronic dot. The dot indicates the location of the sending unit. When the target car starts up the receiver emanates a louder and faster beeping sound. When the car moves, the dot moves. If the dot is in the middle, the target is straight ahead, if the dot moves left the target is turning left. The Hound Dog operator must interpret the tone and frequency of the audible beeps and use their best guess on the speed of the target, because if the target gets too far ahead, the beeping gets fainter. Mainly, the operator tries to stay close, but not too close. When the beeps slowed down but the tone was loud, they assumed the target was stopped and the engine shut off. The operators then radioed the other team members the approximate location and they moved in closer to get an “eye” on the target.
We followed this guy on long, meandering trips throughout the greater Kansas City area. We sat out in front of bars for hours, only to see him drive home in the early hours. We caught him meeting with a known mob fence named Jimmy Ciarelli. They talked in a parking lot for a short time and parted. We never followed him anywhere close to the home of Sgt. Klousterman.
One afternoon, when we arrived at Petrovics’ apartment, the Impala was gone. We split up and started checking his known locations to no avail. One crew set a stationary surveillance outside Sgt. Klousterman’s home. The detective crew with the sending unit knew what to do. They ran the interstate highways north and south then east and west in the Kansas City area. Just as they were about to give up, they heard a faint beep just off I-35 as they went from Missouri into Kansas. We flooded into this area and the Hound Dog operators reported they were getting a faint beep that grew louder and louder as they entered a commercial area. We noted this area contained old brick buildings with auto repair shops, body shops, an auto detailing place, a used car lot, a car wash and several dive bars. We looked and looked and looked as the receiver kept beeping. It was getting late and we finally got out of our cars to walk around this deserted neighborhood. A detective, walking in front of a storefront auto repair garage, looked inside a plate glass window and there it was. We knew the muffler system was old and rusty. Our first thought was that he was getting his exhaust system repaired or replaced. This would reveal the sending unit to the mechanic. Our first idea was to just throw a concrete block though the front window, run in and grab the transmitter. Our second (and better) thought was to call an Intelligence Unit Sergeant at home. Sgt. Billy Trollope was well known for his calmness under fire and he did not disappoint. First thing he ordered was to do nothing until he arrived at the scene. In about half an hour he and the Unit Captain arrived. They had a plan. Sgt. Trollope assigned me to call 911 and report that I was walking home from work and as I walked past this garage, I saw a man inside ducking down behind a car. Soon, we heard a District officer dispatched to investigate a suspicious party on the inside. Sgt. Trollope and Captain Pattison showed up as the district officer arrived. They all looked around the building and Sgt. Trollope called the dispatcher advising that he had been in the area and was helping. He suggested to the officer that he ask the dispatcher to check the building listing and call the emergency number. Soon, the dispatcher called back saying they had the owner on the phone, Sgt. Trollope requested the owner respond. He and Capt. Pattison had a plan. When the owner arrived and let them in to search, Capt. Pattison, the more gregarious of the pair, would engage the owner and distract him into the office area. Sgt. Trollope would slide under the target Impala and snatch the sending unit. The owner took a liking to Sgt. Trollope and soon the roles had to reverse, Captain Pattison found himself sliding on the greasy floor under the Impala and snagging the sending unit. Petrovics got his car back the next day with a new exhaust system and late that night, we reinstalled the sending unit in his apartment parking lot.
A month later, on February, 22, 1980. Det. Roger Gibson made an announcement over the radio. “We beat the Russians” and the air came alive with whoops. The Miracle on Ice happened while we were chasing this guy around the city. We were about to give up on this surveillance. We had followed Petrovics south to Greenwood, Missouri, a small city that has since become a suburb. He left and drove north, like he was going back into Kansas City. He turned into the Jackson County James A. Reed Wildlife Area. He drove back to the far south end of the wildlife area and parked with his lights off. He could see the downtown section of Greenwood, Missouri from his spot. After about an hour, he left and drove home. Within, another week or so of no understandable activity, we dropped off this intensive surveillance. During the next month, an informant reported to Sgt. Klousterman that Petrovics burglarized a golf supply place in Greenwood Missouri and had fenced the goods to Jimmy Ciarelli. We served a search warrant on Ciarelli and arrested Petrovics. He was sent back to prison on a parole violation but Ciarelli beat the case on receiving stolen property. We did recover hundreds of boxes of stolen golf balls.
I have never used the modern GPS electronic devices. I have learned that with those devices the operator can safely see what a target is doing daily from the comfort of an office. I found Amazon sells a [+ $120.00 GPS tracking device+] that can be set to send text messages when the target starts moving and sends text message every 10 seconds showing the target’s location on Google maps and will hibernate when the car stops. This unit has a long-lasting battery, no exposed antenna and can be attached to anyplace that a car body contains metal. With this device, a surveillance crew can safely follow the most careful target.
In Kansas City, from January 2, 2016 to March 24, 2016, victims reported 21 armed robberies of gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores committed by three black males, usually dressed in the same clothes in each incident. One suspect wore a Royals baseball team hoodie, one a Nike on grey urban camouflage hoodie. All were masked, they displayed handguns aggressively and made similar demands (get down, give me the money, etc.). This robbery crew obtained scores of $90.00 to $6,000.00, with several 5 figure robberies.
The robbery detectives used the usual investigative techniques of looking for surveillance camera footage from the victim’s store and nearby locations like other convenience stores, ATM machines and parking lots. From a surveillance camera located close to one of these robberies, they identified a partial license plate on a grey Pontiac G-6 with spoiler and the driver talking on a cell phone. On March 17th, after a DMV search, the detectives determined the G-6 owner was Denote Collins and he lived in a Kansas City suburb, Grandview, Mo. They located the Pontiac G-6, got a warrant and installed the GPS surveillance device. While they were watching on March 21, another robbery with the same suspect description happened. The suspects used a BMW SUV. One hour after that robbery, the robbery detectives watching the Pontiac G-6 observed this BMW SUV enter the same apartment parking lot.
During this time, they determined Denote Collins’ cell number. They checked cell tower records and that device had pinged a tower close to the previous robbery where the suspect was seen on a surveillance camera on his cell phone at the same time. They connected this cell phone to other cell towers close to all the robberies in this pattern. Robbery detectives found most recent robbery victim’s security camera footage to have the same BMW stopping and one of the suspects “casing” the store just prior to the robbery.
They learned the name of the BMW owner, Jarmon Seals, and in an unconnected incident, the detectives learned this suspect’s father had contacted police at a No Violence, NOVA, meeting and reported he was worried about his son, who had recently paid cash for a late model BMW with no means of income. On March 23, 2016 robbery detectives obtained a warrant to install a GPS device on the BMW. This paid off the next day. On March 24, 2016, Jarmon Seals and Denote Collins enter the BMW at the Grandview apartment and drive away. A surveillance team in a van in the apartment parking lot reported they are both carrying handguns. Detectives follow the BMW and watch them pick up Shannon Thomas in Kansas City, MO. They follow the three to a Phillips 66 in Blue Springs, Missouri, where they entered and the surveillance crew reports the robbery team left quickly. They learned later the robbers attempted a robbery but left quickly for unknown reasons.
The detective follows the robbery team to a nearby Walgreens Pharmacy. They are watching as they see one of the suspects grab an employee on the front sidewalk and force him back inside. They rob the store of money and prescription cough syrup. As Seals, Collins and Thomas leave the store, the surveillance team confronts them. Shots are fired and the surveillance officers kill Jermon Seals and arrest the other two. In a heartbreaking turn of events, the only one killed is Jermon Seal and he is the guy whose father told police he had large amounts of cash to purchase the BMW.
Using these modern electronic devices law enforcement is required by a Supreme Court decision to use a warrant like a search warrant and the affiant officer must state a sworn probable cause that demonstrates why this device must be used and why other less intrusive investigative methods will not work. All citizens are protected from random use of these devices by the 4th Amendment restriction of the government against unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers may use the following exceptions; (1) when the owner of the car or cell phone gives permission; (2) in a border area of the US; (3) imminent threat of life (e.g. use of “slap and track” device shot into back of speeding car)
The use of cell phone cell tower data has not been decided by the Supreme Court. Currently, a subpoena is usually used to cover the phone company giving out this information. This is for the cell data only and gives only a general area. The phone’s GPS device tells within 10 feet of where the user is standing and this still requires a warrant.
In the modern world of tiny high definition digital cameras, small ultra-sensitive audio listening devices, GPS technology and other electronic surveillance methods, the courts may no longer disregard government invasion of any place where an American citizen has a right to privacy. These are difficult questions — about society’s expectation of privacy in an increasingly technological world — that animates a court’s consideration of these actions. In one Supreme Court case, an intense hour-long oral argument in November, the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel “1984” was referenced six times.
In this series of short stories using practical experiences of past surveillances, I attempted to educate the reader in the methods and problems of surveillance techniques.
Plant – Fixed location surveillance point, e.g. apartment, office building, funeral tent
Eye – The officer who has a real -time physical view of the target
Leap frogging – When cars in a moving surveillance change off with one in the rear, who will pass the target while another car will drop back and take the eye.
Paralleling – When the surveillance cars drive on a parallel street to the target in anticipation the target may make a sudden 90 degree turn to the left or right
Burn or take a burn – Get spotted by a surveillance target
Hound Dog or Beeper – An electronic sending and receiving combination where the sending unit is attached to the target and the receiving unit is monitored in one of the trailing cars
Made Man – A member of a La Cosa Nostra crime family who has taken an oath
Associate – a professional criminal who works with made guys
Bust out scheme – When a business owner buys as much as he can on credit, sells it out for cash and then pretends his business went broke because of other factors.
Score – The proceeds from criminal activity like robbery, burglary, extortion, blackmail etc.
Wire Room – The room, usually inside F.B.I. headquarters, that contained all the tape recorders and officers listening to wiretaps or hidden microphones
To hear more true crime stories, listen to my podcast, Gangland Wire Crime Stories
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The author has written a how to book on the art of conduct a surveillance on criminals. Gary Jenkins is a retired Kansas City Police Intelligence Unit detective and Gary uses real life situations to entertain and educate the reader in the art of surveillance. He tells about sitting in roach infested apartments for days and days, following a serial killer on foot though the back alleys of Kansas City and following professional criminals as they move from state to state or case a bank or rob a pharmacy.