CLEVELAND (WJW) – Cleveland police are warning drivers about police impersonators, who have been pulling over vehicles and then robbing victims at gunpoint.
In the latest case, a motorist was traveling along Broadway Avenue in the city’s Slavic Village neighborhood on Sunday around 6:20 pm when the driver of an unmarked black SUV with tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights tried to pull over the victim’s car.
The witness reported that the police impostor was armed with a gun and was wearing a ballistic vest. Fortunately, the witness followed the advice police have given, amid a string of aggravated robberies involving suspects posing as officers and called 911.
The victim then started driving toward Cleveland’s Third District Police Station, and that’s when the police impersonator stopped following the vehicle.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia told Fox 8, “If you get pulled over by an unmarked car and you are worried about that, you can just stay in your car and call 911 and the dispatcher will be able to tell you whether that’s a Cleveland police vehicle with you or not.”
Investigators say there have now been at least five incidents where a group of young men in a black SUV with flashing lights have posed as police, pulling over unsuspecting victims and robbing them of their valuables and in some cases, taking their vehicles.
“These aggravated robberies have happened on the East Side and on the West Side, so they’re happening throughout the city, and we really don’t have a target area,” said Sgt. Ciaccia.
Joshua Smith is among witnesses on the city’s near West Side, who have spotted at least two SUVs being used by the fake cops.
Smith told Fox 8, “It’s creepy, it’s actually kind of creepy. It’s like they’re cops, but they’re not cops. They’re not undercover, they’re not vice, because I know those, they’re just random trucks.” Like local law enforcement and many Clevelanders, Smith is concerned that innocent victims could end up getting hurt or killed if the police impersonators are not stopped.
“Keep your eyes open, just pay attention to things that don’t make sense,” he said.
Anyone who can help identify the suspects posing as police officers is asked to call the real Cleveland police or Crime Stoppers at (216)252-7463.