Police or Strangers? Can you get pulled over by an unmarked car?

July 23, 2016

This month Wheeling Police Department visited a local Montessori school to educate children and adults about strangers. It is a common occurrence for children and adults to be approached by strangers and the goal of this visit was to find ways to recognize strangers and know what to do. 

Strangers can approach children online, at stores and even at their homes, but the most common scenarios involve a lost pet when a stranger comes to a child holding a leash and asking for help to find a missing dog or a cat. Could they really be looking for a missing pet? Yes, and it is okay if they ask a question like “have you seen my little white puppy”? But it is never okay for a stranger to ask to help them look for it. The same goes for adults. It is especially dangerous if you are invited to someone’s car or a house during this encounter.

Strangers are likely to appear as nice people. They can even be dressed as police officers. We should always be careful and examine the following: 

  • the police uniform has to cover the whole body and the color has to match top and bottom
  • the badge has to have a number 
  • the name tag has to say the officer’s name and police department
  • it is not enough to see a hat or a vest that says police
  • an officer has to have a heavy belt with the radio and other police items
  • the uniform has patches on both sides

One of the especially deceiving strangers encounters for adults is getting pulled over by an unmarked car. Anyone can install sirens and lights on their vehicle, but it doesn’t mean it’s police. It is possible but highly unlikely that a police car that doesn’t say police on their vehicle would be pulling you over.  If you are getting pulled over by an unmarked car, here is what to do:

  • turn on your emergency lights
  • continue to drive the speed limit and obey all traffic rules
  • call 911 and inform them you are being followed by an unmarked vehicle and you are not sure it’s police
  • do not pull over until you reach a police department or a highly public place 
  • if you stop at the red light and a person from this unmarked car approaches you, do not roll down your window

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