The Eagle Police Department’s Fraud Detective and Traffic Enforcement Officers Want You to Stay Safe during the Holidays
By Liza Long Photos Heather James
Have you ever wondered what a credit freeze is and why you may need one? Do you have questions about Idaho’s new hands-free cell phone law? What do you need to know about winter driving conditions? Eagle Police Department fraud detective Brendan Kirkpatrick STEP Deputy Joe Richardson both have some ideas about what you can do to stay safe this winter.
The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
Eagle’s explosive growth in the last five years highlighted the police department’s need for a detective who focused specifically on fraud and identity theft. With 25 years of law enforcement experience, eight of these in fraud, Detective Brendan Kirkpatrick was the perfect choice. Ironically, Detective Kirkpatrick notes that the positive qualities that bring so many people to our community unfortunately also attract scam artists who prey on people’s goodwill.
Some of the more common scams that Detective Kirkpatrick sees involve unsolicited phone calls requesting payment in gift cards. “They may call you and tell you there’s a warrant out for your arrest in Texas and ask you to send them $1,500 in Target gift cards,” he told me, stressing that this type of request should always be a red flag.
“Do not ever send gift cards,” he said. “Gift cards are just that – something you buy your niece or your cousin. A real agency like the IRS or Social Security Administration will never ask you to pay fines in gift cards.”
People are on their computers more because of the pandemic, and this increased computer time leads to a rise in fraud. “Computer crimes take place throughout the year, but during the holiday season, we are in the spirit of giving,” Detective Kirkpatrick notes. “Be aware of fake charities who ask you for donations.”
“Don’t click on suspicious or unsolicited emails or attachments,” he adds. “Don’t ever give your computer access to anyone. It’s your computer—and potentially your identity.”
Detective Kirkpatrick recommends that people take a few minutes to freeze their credit accounts, and he’s worked with the department to create educational materials to help people protect their credit before they encounter a problem.
“A major part of my work is education,” he says. “If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can take you several months to get your life back. It’s an emotional thing—you have all these bills, you don’t know where they came from, and it can feel overwhelming. If you ever get an email or phone call soliciting for anything, and you are not sure, call us. We are here any time you need us and we will help you take care of this.”
Engaged Driving Is Safe Driving
As Eagle grows, so does our traffic. Deputy Joe Richardson is part of a two-officer STEP team dedicated exclusively to Eagle’s traffic issues. With his partner Deputy Jeremy Seibert and a pair of new motorcycles, the team handles everything from neighborhood speeding concerns to stop sign running to safe driving in school zones.
Many residents may be concerned about the new hands-free cell phone law that went into effect on July 1, 20
20. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,841 people were killed and more than 400,000 were injured in 2018 in accidents where distracted driving was a factor, and cell phone use is one of the major causes of distraction. During the first six months of Idaho’s implementation, officers have focused on giving drivers warnings and educating them about safe driving. Citations of $75 for first offenses will start to be issues on January 1, 2021.
Deputy Richardson says that he’s seen good cell phone behavior from drivers in our community overall, but he stresses that distracted driving does not start and end with cell phone use. “We’ve seen everything you can imagine,” he told me. “People putting on makeup, dogs walking across laps and blocking the view, even some people changing their clothes in the driver’s seat.”
Richardson notes that he and his partner focus on the concept of “engaged driving,” where drivers are paying full attention to the road.
A more serious concern for Eagle drivers is the number of flashing yellow left-turn signals on high-speed roads like Highway 44 and Highway 55, both major thruways in our community. “When you hear about the most horrific accidents, there’s often a flashing yellow light involved,” Deputy Richardson told me, giving the tragic example of a 2017 double fatality accident when two Eagle High School students were killed trying to turn from Highway 44 onto Park Lane. “At high speeds, those few seconds can be deadly. When in doubt, wait for the solid green arrow.”
Officer Richardson also noted that winter weather leads to an increased risk of accidents. “Drivers need to adjust to the road conditions,” he said. “Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that you know how to use 4-wheel drive on winter roads.”
He notes that following too close is the biggest reason for winter accidents. “Leave a bigger space cushion between you and the next car. Slow down; don’t be inpatient, and be engaged and focused,” he advised.