View from the cop: Crime & punishment
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Hangin’ at Cop Corner with Det. Steve Rose
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Det. Steve Rose gets the word out on bad guys, burglary trends and criminal Einsteins. More photos
Fulton County Det. Steve Rose just oozes stories.
Like the time cops took a transvestite off the hands of a Good Samaritan. Or when he took a beating when he tussled with a guy high on “angel dust.”
Regular readers of View From the Cop are accustomed to his — shall we say — unique way of poking fun at criminals, himself, other cops and even victims.
At 52, the practical jokester and self-taught cartoonist has about seen it all.
Ajc.com spent a recent afternoon and evening with the 28-year police veteran, who is in charge of Neighborhood Watch programs in toney north Fulton.
He works out of an office (housing about 100 officers) on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs and oversees some 110 watch programs, dispensing practical advice and advisories, and urging residents to pay attention and “be consistent” so that they don’t become property crime victims.
ON WHY HE BECAME A COP
“I was in the Navy and got out in ‘74. I drove a bread truck in Cobb County. I had a buddy who was an officer in DeKalb.” Rose went to the police academy, worked Emory University security for a while, then on to three years at Chamblee (his hometown). He’s been with Fulton County since then.
“I kind of fell into it [police work]. I like it.”
Rose, who has held his current position since 2001, works in a COPS (community-oriented policing) unit in a building shared with motorcycle and other patrol officers.
“You don’t need to have ticket quotas because there are so many violations out there.”
What about motorists who try to wriggle their way out of getting a ticket?
“A woman who cries will get a ticket.” Stickers supporting various police benevolent groups “mean absolutely nothing.
“We just ask for a decent attitude from stopped motorists.”
The detective reads police reports each morning and communicates with neighborhood groups. There’s lots of e-mail correspondence. He’ll pass on and respond to advisories on suspicious persons, burglary trends and other crimes.
He may work late a couple times a week, giving speeches to residents or helping them establish a Neighborhood Watch program.
Many tips come in from neighborhoods, and many don’t pan out. “Urban legends can float around,” he says.
But even one solved case can solve up to a dozen related crimes, Rose says.
DO YOU MISS BEING ON A BEAT?
“I miss some of the contact [with people]. I miss the variety of the bizarre … and there’s some really intense decision-making.”
EVER BEEN IN SERIOUS DANGER?
“At 4 a.m. one day I fought a guy on angel dust. He looked right through me. He had been running red lights. He wouldn’t get in the patrol car. We got into it. He was wearing me out. I was black and blue and was getting the gun. We fell back and his head hit the pavement, knocking him out. He couldn’t recall the fight the next day. … He was fixing to kill me.”
ABOUT THAT TRANSVESTITE …
Rose calls a case years ago of a rough-ed up transvestite dressed as a female .
A passing motorist picked him up, thinking “she” might have been an assault victim. Cops knew who the victim was and told the motorist, Rose says, that, “the good news is that we are taking him off your hands. The bad news is that he’s a him.”
ON KIDDING AROUND AND CARTOONING
Rose has done cartooning for more than 30 years. Many are work-inspired. He freelanced in 1970s and 1980s.
“There’s a reason they call them starving artists,” he says.
The detective has a penchant for writing official-looking gag letters to people (once pretending to work for the EPA and telling a homeowner he had extensive hazardous cleanup ahead) just to give himself a laugh and them a scare.
“We need stress relief. … There’s a lot of violence on the streets. More than when I was on patrol.”
Rose and his wife, Sandy, who also works for Fulton Police (she’s a child sex-crimes investigator), live in Forsyth County. His father is a retired Colonial Pipeline accountant; his mother likes to play golf at Summit Chase Country Club in Snellville.
He and Sandy have a 25-foot boat dubbed “Who Cares II,” inspired by Jimmy Buffett.
— Daughters: Jennifer, 26, who is married and has a son, Fischer, lives in Atlanta. Lindsay, 20, lives in Raleigh, N.C.
— Stepsons: Cody, 13; Patrick, 15
The Roses don’t advertise the fact that they are police officers to their neighbors.
“We just like to blend in.” They enjoy friends, occasional margaritas on the deck and trips to the mountains.
‘BASEBALL IS MY PASSION’
“I grew up in Chamblee. My life revolved around baseball. I had a typical middle class upbringing.”
Rose played infield and continued to play adult baseball.
He’s coached his daughters in softball and boys in baseball.
And, he says, it should be all about having fun.
“Years later, a kid will remember who coached them, not whether he won 30 or 35 games. We don’t have any egos, none will play pro ball. We have fun. If you teach well it all comes in…”
Rose has coached a rec league team, the Lookouts, which includes Cody, for the past six seaons.
“My father coached me. He was great at fundamentals.”
ABOUT HIS RIDE
A fan of guitar-driven music, Rose listens to 96Rock at the office and in his unmarked green police car. He digs the ’70s rock group Jethro Tull, and wrote recently about going to a Styx concert.
He drives about 25 miles — about 45 minutes — to work from Ball Ground (which straddles Cherokee and Forsyth counties). He likes to get a cup of cappuccino in the morning at a service station on Ga. 9.
” I love sushi. I go every other Friday.”
Rose, who prefers spicy tuna, yellowtail, shrimp roll and salmon, got hooked when he worked on the security detail for former Fulton Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis.
He also enjoys Mexican, Indian and Italian fare.
NORTH FULTON HOMEOWNERS
“People up here are good. They want to do the right thing by their kids.”
But even living in some of metro Atlanta best-manicured neighborhoods doesn’t ensure that you are happy.
“They’re all just people. They’ve got the same problems.”
Rose helps people prevent “opportunity knocks” crime, mostly home burglaries.
What is success?
“When I get subdivision feedback that shows residents are passing on crime tips.” He asks for info on suspicious persons, vehicles.
What not to do?
“Don’t get a flashlight, go over there and ask them what they are doing. Call the police.”
Rose tells homeowners the same thing you read often in his columns. Pay attention. Be consistent. Stick with your intuition rather than dismissing something or someone, as in “it couldn’t happen here.”
“It comes down to simple absolutes. If you make it difficult to become a victim, you won’t be one. If you are consistent, things will fall into place.”
IS THE LIVING EASY DURING THE SUMMER?
“Summer is a big time for children-generated vandalism. Drug and alcohol use, especially, at pool and tennis clubhouses.”
MEETING WITH NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS
We traveled one recent evening with Rose to a Neighborhood Watch meeting at a Dunwoody neighborhood near Nancy Creek. His talk centered on 911 response time, burglaries and the formation of a police department in Sandy Springs by mid-2006. (Rose is serving on a task force looking into its establishment.)
Rose’s message to the handful of homeowners:
— Even amateur criminals will case a neighborhood for a week.
— About 99 percent of calls are unfounded, but that one call may clear a lot of burglaries.
— Burglars usually hit during the day. They pound the front and back doors for alarms, listen for barking dogs. They pry open the rear door and hope they don’t activate the alarm. They go first to the bedroom and then the bathroom vanity to get jewels. They like laptops. They are in for five minutes.
— Put up security company signs, stickers. “None of them want to take a chance.”
— Shred records, use dead-bolt locks.
— Motion lights and detectors can be effective.
— Don’t mail checks from your home mailbox.
— Log tag numbers of suspicious vehicles.
— “Don’t look away from a stranger, walking or driving through the neighborhood. “That let’s them know they’ve been noticed.”
— When on vacation, have a neighbor park their car in your driveway. Don’t stop your mail; have a neighbor pick it up. Why? A misbehaving postal employee might know you’re away and could perhaps pay an unwanted visit.
HOW HAS AREA CHANGED?
“In the 1980s, apartments were full of fun-loving singles. Weekend parties, full of beautiful people. … Lots of cocaine at bars …. “
Rose says much of the Roswell Road area, once called the “Golden Ghetto,” has been home to gangs like the Crips and Vice Lords for many years.
The Hispanic population has skyrocketed, and cultural and trust issues have frustrated anti-crime efforts, Rose says.
He drove a reporter along Northwood Drive, a street he says the new city of Sandy Springs will need to focus on. It’s the scene of street robberies, home invasions. “It’s another world.”
“We need to teach people to trust us. The only time they see us is when we enforce the law.”
Workers are often scammed or robbed when they cash their checks. Apartment owners and businesses need to step up by attracting the right clientele, Rose says.
Rose says it’s been tough to get Hispanic residents in the area to attend crime-fighting meetings.
“We need to get in to talk to the general [Hispanic] population and get feedback. They worry about retaliation if they tell us. [But] If life’s better for them, it’s better for us.”