BROOKLYN, NY–Municipal law-enforcement officials leapt into action with swift and immediate dispatch Tuesday, when a car alarm went off in the parking lot of a Park Slope condominium complex, alerting citizenry and police alike that a Saab Turbo convertible was in peril.
"As soon as the car alarm went off, I knew something had to be done–and fast," police officer Tony Muldoon, the first of 12 officers to arrive on the scene, told reporters. "In a scenario like this, your training takes over. You don't think about yourself or your loved ones, or the danger you may be facing by entering such a volatile situation. The only thought going through my head was: My God, a car is being threatened. I knew I couldn't allow something like that to happen. Justice had to be served."
The car alarm, which sounded at approximately 10:35 a.m., quickly caught the attention of concerned citizens, who called 911 to alert authorities. Police officials were already on the way, however, as the borough's special Car Alarm Alert Squad had been mobilized within seconds of the alarm's sounding.
"The moment the alarm went off, our emergency car-alarm crisis-response protocol system kicked into high gear," Brooklyn 23rd Precinct Special Response Unit captain Luis Ruiz said. "Our rapid-deployment intervention team was suited up and on the way within minutes, ready to take on whatever caused the disturbance with their lightning-quick intervention tactics. When a car alarm sounds, there's no room for error."
Upon arriving at the scene, Muldoon took up a strategic position at the north end of the parking lot. After securing the area, he radioed to headquarters for back-up, following standard safety procedure requiring police to wait until at least three other officers arrive before venturing into a car-alarm situation.
Once back-up arrived, Muldoon closed in on the crisis zone. Fortunately, neither Muldoon nor any of the other 14 officers who responded were able to detect anything wrong with the Saab. It is theorized that the car alarm may have been accidentally set off by another resident of the condominium complex, who may have nudged slightly against the car's bumper when pulling out of the lot in his or her own vehicle.
"We may never know what happened here today," Muldoon said. "The most important thing is that the car is safe. In the end, that's the only thing that really matters."
Though no evidence of an intruder was found, police stress that criminal activity cannot be ruled out.
"It's quite possible that wrongdoers were menacing the vehicle but were scared off by the alarm's sudden, loud shrieking sound before they had the chance to do any damage," said Ruiz, who is urging anyone with information about the car-alarm sounding to contact one of the seven full-time detectives working on the case. "After all, how could a criminal not be frightened to his very bones by the piercing tones of this cunning anti-theft device? It's quite terrifying, I assure you. Any man who could face a car alarm without fear would have to have ice water running through his veins."
Contributing greatly to the Saab's security, police authorities said, was the fact that its owner chose to install an intimidating "five different rotating sound effects"-style alarm.
"This car alarm, by emitting an alternating set of ear-splitting tones rather than just one ear-splitting tone, was all the more difficult to ignore," Ruiz said. "That shows smart thinking on the owner's part."
Tuesday's incident is the latest in a series of car-alarm crises to plague New York in recent weeks. On Oct. 26, a 1993 Saturn's car alarm went off for over three minutes in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn before police, hampered in traffic by an overturned truck, could arrive on the scene. On Nov. 5, a 1996 Mazda Miata's alarm went off in midtown Manhattan, causing panic for several minutes until order could be restored. And last Thursday, a car alarm went off in Kew Gardens, Queens, when a man who had left his keys inside his 1994 Geo Metro attempted to open the door with a bent coathanger.
According to U.S. Justice Department records, between April 1996 and October 1998, a staggering 15 car alarms went off in the borough of Brooklyn alone. Police estimate, however, that as many as two-thirds of these incidents may have been so-called "false" alarms, caused by children bouncing up and down on the tires, subways shaking cars slightly when passing underneath, or kittens rubbing their furry bodies against the vehicles in a stroking motion. Nevertheless, in the other one-third of cases, police said the car alarms' harsh, loud warnings played a crucial role in the swift apprehension of those responsible.
Brooklyn District Attorney Benjamin Cordoba said the importance of defending one's vehicle with the loudest, most shrill car alarm possible cannot be overstated.
"These car alarms are sending a strong message about crime in our streets," Cordoba said. "It is a message that is harder than ever to ignore."