PDA

View Full Version : Question about the bomb squad/DEA



mreilly19
11-02-2012, 09:15 PM
Hi all, I have mapped out a scene for my novel involving the Los Angeles Bomb Squad/DEA and am interested in some feedback. This takes place 20 years ago so police procedures may be a bit more primitive then.

Quick background: good guy pisses off criminal bad guy who runs drugs out of the bar he owns. Bad guy & Co. are looking for the good guy in L.A. to kill him. Good guy decides he's going to be proactive; he'll plant heroin in the office of the bad guy's bar (while disguised), tip the cops off anonymously with a picture of the planted drugs, then mail the bad guy MORE heroin so the heat comes down on him and the bad guy forgets all about getting the good guy.

The good guy has one problem: how to plant heroin in the bad guy's bar. It's always staffed or alarmed after hours. He decides to phone in a bomb threat to the LAPD to get the place cleared out as he hides inside and plants the contraband.

The way I've written it is that the good guy places an anonymous call to the police from around the corner of the bar. He then enters the crowded bar and hides himself away in a broom closet off the corridor from the restrooms. The LAPD enters the bar and makes everyone clear out so they can wait for the LA Bomb Squad; they also do a quick sweep for observable explosives but find none. MC emerges from hiding, plants the drugs, and then beats it before the bomb squad shows up with their dogs. They search the place but don't find the drugs since the dogs aren't trained to sniff them out.

Then the LAPD gets the anonymous letter saying drugs are going to be mailed to the bad guy along with a photo of the hidden stash in the office. Since this could be any crank with a grudge against the bad guy, they take no action other than alerting the DEA (which is why my good guy realizes he has to plant the drugs to make the case stick). The LAPD/DEA watch the mail and intercept the package of heroin mailed to the bad guy. They get a search warrant, find the drugs planted by the good guy (plus some other stuff the bad guy was involved in) and the bad guy winds up charged with criminal possession of narcotics with intent to distribute.

I'll make it as realistic as I can by stating they couldn't nail him for receiving the drugs through the mail nor even for the drugs planted in his office (since they couldn't prove it was the bad guy and not one of his staff who owned the drugs in the office), but they get him for the other stuff they found and he gets 3-5 years, the cops are watching him, etc. so this gets the good guy off the hook.

Reasonable or too far fetched? My understanding is that if the cops get a bomb threat they HAVE to investigate and ensure the place is clean. I realize it may be too much "deus ex machina" to have uniformed officers empty out the bar and give the protagonist 5 minutes to do his work behind the scenes (he'll have friends with walkie-talkies watching the exits to warn him of approaching officers) however.

Thanks for any feedback!

ironmikezero
11-02-2012, 10:23 PM
Hmm, your "good guy" is not so good...

He seems predisposed to commit felonies (state & federal): making a bomb threat, possession/distribution of a controlled substance, using the mail to traffic controlled substance, conspiracy, etc...

The LAPD and DEA would have to involve the US Postal Inspectors to intercept/seize/search anything in the US Mail (see the link).

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/

mreilly19
11-02-2012, 11:23 PM
Thanks, I will check it out. I do address the subject of the slew of crimes the good guy commits to nail the bad guy; he does find himself amidst a moral dilemma about misuse of police resources and the commission of crimes such as buying drugs. He reasons that the bad guy really is doing this stuff and he's helping the cops to bust this bad seed by providing them the means to go ahead (may not be morally convincing but this line of thought is also mixed in with the self-preservation instinct.. sort of the mouse biting the dog to wake up so the dog then chases away the cat that's stalking the mouse....)


Hmm, your "good guy" is not so good...

He seems predisposed to commit felonies (state & federal): making a bomb threat, possession/distribution of a controlled substance, using the mail to traffic controlled substance, conspiracy, etc...

The LAPD and DEA would have to involve the US Postal Inspectors to intercept/seize/search anything in the US Mail (see the link).

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/

Canotila
11-03-2012, 12:49 AM
If your protagonist calls the police with a bomb threat, they will have a recording of his voice and probably will know where he called from. Which means they're going to hit that phone booth for fingerprints and other evidence. When someone calls in a bomb threat, they're very motivated to find out who.

Also, the instant police arrive on the scene they're going to watch people coming and going from the place. It's going to be next to impossible for him to leave undetected. This will be very bad for him if they already have his voice recorded as leaving a bomb threat. He's also taking a huge risk hiding in the bar. I'm not sure if the LAPD would risk doing a quick sweep, or if they'd just secure the surrounding area and wait for the bomb squad to show up. You might contact a public information officer for the LAPD and ask about department procedures(explain you're writing a book and doing some research).

What might work better is to call the bar with the bomb threat and hope that whoever answers the phone takes it seriously and reports it to police/evacuates the bar, get in through the chaos of panicked people swarming out, and plant the drugs, and leave on the tailcoats of the crowd before the police are able to respond.

The DEA isn't interested in busting small time drug dealers and individual users. They'd be a lot more interested in who the bad guy's dealer is, which would be bad for your MC. Typically their operations are long term and involve busting entire criminal rings involved in large scale crimes like trafficking millions of $$ worth of drugs, money laundering, human trafficking, etc.

Heroin is kind of expensive, so your MC would need a substantial amount of money to get enough that they'd think he was going to distribute it and that it wasn't for personal use. If it was a smaller amount the local police would handle it.

mreilly19
11-03-2012, 01:40 AM
Good points. I was going to have the MC disguise his voice and use gloves in the phone booth. You make an excellent case for the difficulty of him hiding in the bar/emerging without being caught if the LAPD has arrived. I like the idea of him calling the bar directly and having the staff get everyone out while they wait for the LAPD; it eliminates some of the difficulty I'm having figuring out how the MC is supposed to escape before the bomb squad arrives.

The bar is kind of a dumpy crime spot with tough characters and in my story I've established that the staff is going to be skeptical of emergencies (for instance, one of the MC's confidants says "why don't you just pull the fire alarm to get everyone out of the bar?" The MC responds that the staff might be trained NOT to leave unless they actually see fire/smoke on account of a possible hoax by some degenerate). However, I could have a fake bomb planted by the MC so when he calls into the bar he can tell them "Look in the men's room trash can." They look, see the ominous device with road flares and flashing LEDs, and decide to bug out. It might even be interesting to have the staff head for the hills and call the cops from a phone booth without telling the clientele in the bar!

No problem on the money for the heroin; my MC has a couple of million at his disposal (I'll admit, this has greased the skids for him in my plot since he can buy equipment and witnesses that he needs, but I figure I'll have future novels where I can have poor MCs who need to rely on persuasion :-)

Thanks!


If your protagonist calls the police with a bomb threat, they will have a recording of his voice and probably will know where he called from. Which means they're going to hit that phone booth for fingerprints and other evidence. When someone calls in a bomb threat, they're very motivated to find out who.

Also, the instant police arrive on the scene they're going to watch people coming and going from the place. It's going to be next to impossible for him to leave undetected. This will be very bad for him if they already have his voice recorded as leaving a bomb threat. He's also taking a huge risk hiding in the bar. I'm not sure if the LAPD would risk doing a quick sweep, or if they'd just secure the surrounding area and wait for the bomb squad to show up. You might contact a public information officer for the LAPD and ask about department procedures(explain you're writing a book and doing some research).

What might work better is to call the bar with the bomb threat and hope that whoever answers the phone takes it seriously and reports it to police/evacuates the bar, get in through the chaos of panicked people swarming out, and plant the drugs, and leave on the tailcoats of the crowd before the police are able to respond.

The DEA isn't interested in busting small time drug dealers and individual users. They'd be a lot more interested in who the bad guy's dealer is, which would be bad for your MC. Typically their operations are long term and involve busting entire criminal rings involved in large scale crimes like trafficking millions of $$ worth of drugs, money laundering, human trafficking, etc.

Heroin is kind of expensive, so your MC would need a substantial amount of money to get enough that they'd think he was going to distribute it and that it wasn't for personal use. If it was a smaller amount the local police would handle it.

Canotila
11-03-2012, 02:21 AM
Good points. I was going to have the MC disguise his voice and use gloves in the phone booth. You make an excellent case for the difficulty of him hiding in the bar/emerging without being caught if the LAPD has arrived. I like the idea of him calling the bar directly and having the staff get everyone out while they wait for the LAPD; it eliminates some of the difficulty I'm having figuring out how the MC is supposed to escape before the bomb squad arrives.

The bar is kind of a dumpy crime spot with tough characters and in my story I've established that the staff is going to be skeptical of emergencies (for instance, one of the MC's confidants says "why don't you just pull the fire alarm to get everyone out of the bar?" The MC responds that the staff might be trained NOT to leave unless they actually see fire/smoke on account of a possible hoax by some degenerate). However, I could have a fake bomb planted by the MC so when he calls into the bar he can tell them "Look in the men's room trash can." They look, see the ominous device with road flares and flashing LEDs, and decide to bug out. It might even be interesting to have the staff head for the hills and call the cops from a phone booth without telling the clientele in the bar!

No problem on the money for the heroin; my MC has a couple of million at his disposal (I'll admit, this has greased the skids for him in my plot since he can buy equipment and witnesses that he needs, but I figure I'll have future novels where I can have poor MCs who need to rely on persuasion :-)

Thanks!

Does he know any of the employees? Maybe one of them is the whiny/jumpy type and he could wait until that person is working a heavy shift to call in the threat if he's worried the others will blow it off. If it's a really rough crowd, it could be the employee finally saying the cops are on their way that gets people hustling out vs. fear of a bomb.

Buffysquirrel
11-03-2012, 03:12 AM
Wouldn't it be easier to use his millions to start over in another part of the country?

frimble3
11-03-2012, 03:21 AM
If the bar is that rough, and the staff that skeptical, they're not going to let someone sneak behind them and hide in a broomcloset. They'd be keeping tabs on anyone going to the bathrooms because on the day they lose track, some guy is going to go into the broomcloset, pull on a mask, pull out a gun he's previously stashed and rob them. When it's their necks on the line, people are inclined to be careful.
If he's got millions to spend on equipment and witnesses, why doesn't he spend a few bucks on a city inspector? The guy shows up, quite plausibly: spot inspection, "There were complaints" and, while inspecting the kitchens (safety inspector) or the sprinklers (fire inspector) or the stairwells or 'improvements' (bylaw inspector) plants the drugs. Not as exciting, but simpler. Then the guy goes back out to his car, calls the cops, and says that in the course of his inspection he found drugs.

If you want all the excitement of patrons streaming out of the bar, have a couple of inspectors come by when the place is open, and shut'er down for some gratutious safety violation: a gas line, maybe. "Come on, everybody out, fire department will be here any minute. You too, buddy, you can bring the cash drawer with you, but everybody goes."

Rowan
11-11-2012, 05:49 AM
Hi all, I have mapped out a scene for my novel involving the Los Angeles Bomb Squad/DEA and am interested in some feedback. This takes place 20 years ago so police procedures may be a bit more primitive then. Procedures are basically the same. :)

Quick background: good guy pisses off criminal bad guy who runs drugs out of the bar he owns. Bad guy & Co. are looking for the good guy in L.A. to kill him. Good guy decides he's going to be proactive; he'll plant heroin in the office of the bad guy's bar (while disguised), tip the cops off anonymously with a picture of the planted drugs, then mail the bad guy MORE heroin so the heat comes down on him and the bad guy forgets all about getting the good guy. First, why doesn't the alleged "good guy" go to the police if someone is trying to kill him for no reason? It would seem he'd have proof if he's organized enough to plan this elaborate setup. I really don't get why a "good guy" would risk years in jail instead of going to the police. Maybe you should define "good guy." :) Second, where's he going to get this heroin and the $$ to pay for it? I take it he'll make sure he leaves no prints and no witnesses, ie., the dealer who sells him the heroin? This is problematic for a myriad of reasons--namely what I outlined above. Also, LE / DEA will thoroughly investigate the "anonymous" picture to determine who took it and the circumstances surrounding it as you said this bad guy is a known dealer. Plus, it's not all that easy to just mail a substantial amount of heroin to someone. I should note that I'm speaking as a former DEA agent.

The good guy has one problem: how to plant heroin in the bad guy's bar. It's always staffed or alarmed after hours. He decides to phone in a bomb threat to the LAPD to get the place cleared out as he hides inside and plants the contraband.

The way I've written it is that the good guy places an anonymous call to the police from around the corner of the bar. He then enters the crowded bar and hides himself away in a broom closet off the corridor from the restrooms. The LAPD enters the bar and makes everyone clear out so they can wait for the LA Bomb Squad; they also do a quick sweep for observable explosives but find none. MC emerges from hiding, plants the drugs, and then beats it before the bomb squad shows up with their dogs. They search the place but don't find the drugs since the dogs aren't trained to sniff them out. Problematic. The cops would check every square inch of this bar and they'd most likely find your MC since he's hiding in a closet. Again, how much weight are we talking (heroin)? So you're hoping that cops searching for explosives aren't going to look under the desk or in a drawer or whatever and find a kilo or so of heroin? Have you ever seen LE conduct a search? One word: thorough.

Then the LAPD gets the anonymous letter saying drugs are going to be mailed to the bad guy along with a photo of the hidden stash in the office. Since this could be any crank with a grudge against the bad guy, they take no action other than alerting the DEA (which is why my good guy realizes he has to plant the drugs to make the case stick). Again, how much heroin are you talking about here? A police department the size of the LAPD isn't going to call the DEA for a street quantity. Cops know the players in their area and they have confidential informants and the like. This anonymous tip would be run through the CIs, etc. and checked for validity. You said your guy runs drugs out of his bar so I presume he's known to LAPD narcotics? They probably have a handful of CIs into this guy already and can easily run down this lead. The LAPD/DEA watch the mail and intercept the package of heroin mailed to the bad guy. Warrant. Plus, if the DEA was running this investigation they'd do what's called a controlled delivery*. In short, if the bad guy takes possession of the package, they can arrest him. Is it addressed to him or his business? If the package is addressed to the business and he doesn't take possession of it, that's problematic. They get a search warrant, find the drugs planted by the good guy (plus some other stuff the bad guy was involved in) and the bad guy winds up charged with criminal possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. First, you're getting ahead of yourself. See controlled delivery above. Also, is this a federal or state warrant? Sentencing--from simple possession to PWID--also depends on the amount seized.

I'll make it as realistic as I can by stating they couldn't nail him for receiving the drugs through the mail nor even for the drugs planted in his office (since they couldn't prove it was the bad guy and not one of his staff who owned the drugs in the office), but they get him for the other stuff they found and he gets 3-5 years, the cops are watching him, etc. so this gets the good guy off the hook. So basically all your good guy did was buy himself some time, and not very much of it because the bad guy will likely get off for good behavior or paroled, etc. Not to mention the fact this guy will really want him dead now. Doesn't the bad guy have associates who can still go after your MC? :) I'm not sure what he accomplished here besides pissing off a bad guy even more and breaking a number of laws (narcotics violations not to mention calling in a bomb threat). Your "good guy" is now a really bad guy.

Reasonable or too far fetched? My understanding is that if the cops get a bomb threat they HAVE to investigate and ensure the place is clean. So wouldn't it stand to reason they'd check a broom closet? ;) I realize it may be too much "deus ex machina" to have uniformed officers empty out the bar and give the protagonist 5 minutes to do his work behind the scenes (he'll have friends with walkie-talkies watching the exits to warn him of approaching officers) however. I think you have some major issues here if you're going for authenticity because as outlined, this scenario presumes the LAPD screws up a search and misses a guy hiding in a closet, bomb squad officers fail to notice a significant amount of heroin in the main office during their search for explosives, and while establishing a perimeter around a building that allegedly contains a bomb, they all fail to notice or address people standing around playing with walkie talkies, etc. You should research LAPD procedures and also the DEA's mission and procedures a bit more thoroughly.

Thanks for any feedback!
*http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/bos/2012/bos110812.shtml
I hope this helps! (Note: I answered without reading the other responses so my apologies if I touched on something you explained.)

mreilly19
11-13-2012, 09:18 PM
Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Buffysquirrel, good point about the MC being able to use his millions to start over elsewhere - at the moment he's invested in sticking around L.A. due to his girlfriend and friends but I can raise this possibility "in case there's no alternative."

Frimble, the city inspector notion makes sense, but my MC is paranoid about any trail leading back to him so he would reject this. The only people he participates with in this plan as it applies to the bad guy's bar are friends he trusts implicitly (for instance, he rules out trying to pay off the cleaning person since he figures there's a link back to him which could trip him up).

Rowan, many thanks for the details. The good guy doesn't go to the cops to report that the bad guy is after him since he's concerned he'll get his girlfriend in trouble. She is out on bail and he went to this bar to find out some information to help her case, then ran afoul of the bad guy and his cronies. So, his concern is he might drag her down in an entangling situation and just get her in worse trouble.

Regarding obtaining the drugs, yes he has to engage dealers but he works with several of them to obtain small amounts which total a kilo or so in order to ensure there are no raised eyebrows. He has the money, so his idea is to mail half a kilo of the heroin from a post office box in Vegas back to L.A. (he rejects the notion of walking into a post office to have it shipped). He will then plant the other half kilo in the office in the bad guy's bar.

Based on the recommendations here, I've changed the story: The good guy plants a fake bomb in the trash can in the men's room then phones in the bomb threat via payphone to the BAR itself, NOT the LAPD - too risky to get cops directly involved. He figures the staff will call the cops and clear everyone out and while that's happening he can plant the heroin. He tells the guy on the phone "check the men's room," then hangs up and enters the bar as a patron a minute later. The bar employee comes out of the men's room looking pale, whispers to a few of his employees, and they all run out the door, leaving the place unattended. Their goal is to get to safety then call the cops on the payphone. The angle here is that the staff is a bunch of slimebags out to save their own skins, even sacrificing the safety of the customers left behind who have no clue. Perhaps they truly believe the bomb is legit since the boss is such a rough guy and they figure "No way I'm getting blown up for something HE did."

So the good guy gets into the back room to plant the other half of that kilo and photograph the hiding spot. He emerges as the cops enter and whisk everyone out. The bomb squad finds the fake bomb in the men's room and announces it was just a false alarm. A perfunctory sweep of the rest of the place is made, but with less urgency since it seems to have been a nasty practical joke - though the cops acknowledge the fake bomb might have been a diversion from a REAL one. The bomb-sniffing dogs are brought in and the place pronounced clean. There's no need to exhaustively search the bar since the problem has been found.

As far as what happens when the LAPD gets the letter saying the bad guy has 1/2 kilo of heroin in his office/will be mailed another 1/2 kilo to his office, yes - the bad guy is known to LAPD narcotics as a possible player but they have nothing solid on him. I can have the package arrive at the bar and the bad guy take possession, not knowing what it is. He will then get nailed. I would guess this would be a federal warrant since the 1/2 kilo is being mailed from Vegas.

You bring up an interesting point about the good guy only buying himself some time/risking pissing off the bad guy further, etc. My goal here is multipurpose: show the MC is aggressive and ready to take whatever measures necessary to eliminate a threat (he reasons to himself if he just hides and keeps a low profile he will NEVER know if the bad guy has stopped looking for him, and he just can't live like that). It's also to show that the cops bring so much heat to the bad guy that he not only forgets about finding the good guy but feels he can't dare make a wrong move for fear of being watched by the police, even afterwards. The bad guy won't know for sure who set him up like this; he has many enemies. The run-in he had with the good guy was a physical confrontation but not one that the bad guy will invest 30 years of his life (or sacrifice his life) avenging.

I do address the moral issue of whether it's right to commit all these crimes to get the bad guy in trouble. The good guy believes he's doing the police a favor by helping them catch a genuine criminal. The bad guy is guilty of drug possession/distribution, but the good guy doesn't have the proof so he creates his own in order to pit the bad guy and the police against one another to escape the fray.