A second suspected Blue Light Bandit should be the warning sign we all need to proceed with caution when driving, heeding the advice of Sampson Sheriff Jimmy Thornton who, since the first incidents in October, has urged residents to use a common sense approach when attempts are made to pull them over by unmarked vehicles.
“No one should ever stop for a blue light unless they are confident that the person trying to pull them over is a law enforcement officer,” Thornton has stressed. “Everyone has a cell phone these days; the best thing to do if a situation like that presents itself is to simply call 911 to determine if it is an officer behind you.”
The sheriff is exactly right.
There’s a lot of difference between a marked Sampson Sheriff’s vehicle, a N.C. Highway Patrol car and a Clinton Police cruiser and the unmarked variety combing the roads, and no one expects law-abiding citizens to pull over simply because an undesignated vehicle flashes blue and red lights.
That’s where the caution and common sense should kick in. Thornton has repeatedly said that motorists who are suspicious of a potential stop should call 911 dispatchers to find out if, in fact, an officer is making a stop in the area in which they are traveling. What’s more, they should turn on their emergency flashers, travel the posted speed limit and find a well-lit area in which to pull over, if pulling over is even believed to be necessary.
Those traveling alone should not pull over unless it’s been confirmed that the vehicle attempting to stop them is a law enforcement officer. All others should proceed to their residences or to a populated area, alerting 911 of their whereabouts and any description of the vehicle or driver they can possibly provide.
Two incidents in mid-October brought the first warnings from Thornton. A third incident in the southern end of the county Sunday night has caused them to resurface. An arrest was made in the first two incidents that occurred in the Newton Grove area; officers are looking for information in the third, which occurred around 7:30 p.m. on Union School Road Nov. 10.
Whether they arrest another suspect or not, the caution urged when faced with these type circumstances should continue to be heeded. It is always better to be careful than sorry.
While we understand that some residents are fearful of not pulling over for blue or red flashing lights, they should follow simple steps laid out by Thornton.
Again they are:
• Call 911, both to check on a potential stop and to alert them of your whereabouts;
• Turn emergency flashers on but continue to drive until reaching a well-lit and populated area
• Drive the posted speed limit
“It’s the kind of caution that is necessary in this day and time. People need to be aware. There are folks out there that are so brazen, they’ll do anything. It’s amazing and alarming,” Thornton has said.