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Specialized Law Enforcement: Tips for Authors

Our chapter of Sisters in Crime chapter hosts a variety of programs for our authors to help them write it right. Recently, we had a specialized law enforcement panel with officers from CSX Railroad, the Virginia Alcohol Beverage and Control Board, and the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries. Their jobs and jurisdictions are unique, and I picked up some good information for future mysteries. Here are a few things I learned.

  1. The railroad police began with the Pinkerton guards. Allan Pinkerton was also the Father of the Secret Service.

  2. All of these law enforcement agencies work closely with other local, state, and federal groups. They are often involved in special task force efforts.

  3. Railroad tracks are on private property. If you're on them, you're already trespassing.

  4. A lot of modern shipping (retail, HAZMAT, and military) goes by rail.

  5. Train riders (stow-aways) often tag the railroad cars to leave messages for others in their community. Hopping trains is illegal. If caught, you could receive a ticket or be arrested.

  6. If you have an issue or an emergency at a railroad crossing, look for the blue sign at the gate. It has a contact number. If you're stuck on the tracks, get off the tracks and notify the railroad authorities on that sign. They can alert any oncoming trains.

  7. Technology helps with safety (e.g. camera on trains and sensors on the tracks).

  8. It takes time to stop a train. A train hits a car with the force that a car would hit a soft drink can. If you get stuck on the tracks, get away from the car.

  9. Trains are quieter now (except for the whistle). If you're on the tracks (and if you have headphones on), you might not hear it.

  10. Virginia prohibition enforcement began in 1934.

  11. Currently there is an exhibit on alcohol and Prohibition at the Library of Virginia. It's called "Teetotalers and Moonshiners." It runs through December 2017.

  12. In the past ABC officers were called revenuers.

  13. If you're interested in the history of moonshine, check out the National Geographic's documentary. A lot of it was set in Virginia.

  14. Game wardens became Conservation Police Officers in 2007 in Virginia.

  15. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries uses science to determine the wildlife populations across the Commonwealth. They decide if hunting/fishing numbers need to be increased or decreased to protect natural populations.

  16. Virginia's Game and Inland Fisheries just celebrated its centennial. For more information, check out its YouTube channel.

  17. Curtilage is the maintained area around a house. This is usually the boundary of where they can search unless there are special circumstances.

  18. Baiting for hunting is illegal in Virginia. Often you will see corn on the ground (deer) or peanut butter on trees (bears) to attract animals.

  19. Blaze pink will be an official safety color in addition to blaze orange.

  20. Coyotes are not native to Virginia, and there are no bag limits on them. If you hunt and fish in Virginia check their publications or website for licensing and restrictions.

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