By Joyce Tremel
Most people probably think a mystery writer working for a police department is a perfect combination. Where else could a writer get an endless supply of plot ideas, exciting crimes, hot guys in uniform, and access to all kinds of procedural and legal information?
On second thought, leave out the hot guys in uniform. You won’t find any here.
The suburbs are not exactly hotbeds of criminal activity, and Shaler Township is no exception. We went twenty years without a homicide. Most of the reports I type are for things like lost dogs, traffic complaints and motor vehicle accidents. We have a lot of domestics, neighbor disputes and drug related crimes, like retail thefts. Not exactly riveting material for a mystery novel.
On the upside, though, I get a first hand look at how a police department functions. Sure, it’s on a smaller scale than the city, but Pennsylvania law is the same in both. I have experts on hand that I can ask crime-related questions. I only have to holler or dial a three digit extension. I have access to crime scene photos. I got to help process a burglary scene (it was my brother-in-law’s house), and I was taught how to fingerprint people.
On the downside, I’m usually the one who has to pat down (frisk) any female prisoners. Ick. I wear gloves. Police work is definitely not as exciting as it's portrayed on television. Crimes are not solved in an hour. And I get really bored entering traffic citations into the computer. But overall, the good things outweigh the bad.
I realize how lucky I am to have all the resources I need right here in my day job to enhance my crime writing and make it more realistic. I’d like to share some of that info. If anyone has questions on procedure, cops, crimes, etc., feel free to ask. I can’t guarantee that I’ll know the answer, but I certainly know who to ask!