Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Police Officer's View on Vandwelling & Overnighting

It's always very important to use common sense, gut-instinct, and discretion when picking out a safe & stealthy place to sleep in your vehicle for the night. You don't want to make anyone scared or suspicious, and you don't want anyone to alert the police of your creepy ovenight-vehicle presence.

From reading other people's various blog-experences with police officer encounters, I have never been one to believe that most police officers are "out to get" vandwellers. If a vandweller is honest, courteous, and sincere with a police officer, I am willing to bet that they will be the same way in return. If you haven't done anything wrong, and you are just looking for a safe place to park for the night, there is no harm in admitting that to a cop.

I recently received this email from a police officer down south, and he has given me permission to share it with you. :)

"Hey there,

I just wanted to say that I've been following your blog and enjoying it. I stumbled across it through and have been following ever since. I really admire your sense of independence. I'm also very impressed with your "survivalism" (if you want to call it that) and your free spirit.

As I'm sure that you guessed from my email address, I am a Police Officer. I work on the night shift and have been following van dwelling online for a while.

I did want to mention (and you can share it with your vandwelling friends) that ALL cops aren't out to get you guys. It just takes common sense as to where you park. I spend a lot of my nights on patrol looking for things that are "suspicious". A cargo van in a wealthy neighborhood at 0200 hrs is suspicious. A cargo van in the back of a 24 hr store parking lot, a middle class neighborhood (where there are other vans), or a van in a parking lot with other cars isn't so much. A good tip that I havent seen mentioned is Autozone/Advance/O'rileys parts stores....if you park in the lot (in a better looking neighborhood) you shouldn't be bothered. If you are questioned about it, tell them that you are waiting for the store to open :).

The only van dweller that I've "run off" in my career was parked in a 24 hr supermarket lot. He was called in by the store employees who thought that he was "acting strange". He parked a ratty old van in the back of the store lot, and went into and out of the store several times without buying anything. The store employees go outside to smoke on breaks in the middle of the night. When they went outside they saw the "van dweller" in and out of his van several times. So they called me. When I showed up and checked him, my concern was if he was "up to no good". If he would have told me what he was doing, and gave me the standard line about "too tired to drive tonight", I would have let him sleep on the property and smoothed things over with the store employees. He didn't take that route and was confrontational with me. So I made him move along in lieu of being arrested on ordinance violations and/or trespassing. I may be different than most cops, but courtesy goes a long way with us. You have no idea how much hostility we see in a day. If you're polite to us and haven't done anything heinous, then 9x outta 10 we'll do what we can to help you out. Just food for thought.

Anyhow, if you make it down this way, look me up. The least that I can do is show you some good places to park the van. :)




-Heidi said...

Excellent post! I'm going to post a link to it on the Vandwellers Facebook Group! Thanks.


Heidi - sounds good! thx

Anonymous said...

walmarts are good for their parking lots.

Todd said...

Great post. Very nice he took the time to contact you.

twokniveskatie said...

excellent to have a perspective from the other side!

~~Mike~~ said...

Excellent post for sure Sonja! I have always felt this way as well. It was very cool of Brian to email you and allow it posted!

I am so glad to see you blogging more actively again! Always enjoy your blog!

97 Roadtrek 170P "Taj Ma Trek"

Bon vivant said...

Very true. They just want to get home to their own, safe and sound.

I just realized how useful automotive places are while unexpectedly out of town overnight last month. Worked great!

NOLA's Lost Son said...

Gotta agree with everyone else, great post and cool cop. I've known a lot of cops per the years, from the cool to the cruel and can honestly say it's a mix. It's nice to see one of the cooler ones not only being cooler, but taking the initiative to reach out and let us know. Funny enough, I stumbled over your blog from cheaprvliving quite some time ago and have been lurking about since then. Great blog :)

Laura Anne said...

Thank you for sharing. I worry about attracting the attention of police. I was thinking a good place I will try to park is in hotel parking lots as long as I move every night.

Its good to hear that they are not all out to get us! I hope that applies to "hippy vans" too! :P

-Heidi said...

Laura Anne,
I'd like to discourage others from using hotel parking lots at night. When you register, they always take your licence plate number so they know who belongs there. Most of them have signs to the effect of "customer parking only, others will be towed". Parking on private property is a big risk. You could wake up in the midst of being towed! Sometimes we park on the street near a hotel parking lot to appear as "overflow" from the hotel - much safer. Just another opinion on the subject.

MsBelinda said...

What a great post Sonja. A big thanks to Brian for reaching out to the vandwellers and for the tip about auto parts stores, it had never occurred to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Brian,
Was travel through the Keys and my Van was not running well. Was stopped when a policeman walked by I flagged him down and let him know what was up. Not only did he find a place to let me stay the night, he said he would let the next shift know what was going on so they would not bother us. Always help to be friendly.

richvanner said...

to falia; about the police officer info; you rote;"from reading other peoples blog experiences with police officer encounters"...and your exhaustive nature of your van dwelling info; maybe people would be interested in reading the collection of these blogs all in 1 place. as a van dweller i do wunder alot about if the cops around me know that im ther? maybe ther approuch is "just don't let me see that your in that van and i won't hassel you.

Anonymous said...

This cop maybe one of the good guys but personal experience tells me that cops would do anything to arrest and press charges for any infraction. Avoiding being confrontational makes sense only because, by the time you are caught, there isn't any other smart choice. Folks, follow all the good tips but never ever be complacent about the police. Have no illusions. They will feed you to the prison industrial complex.

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