ArticleID: 143
Date: 6/9/2002
Written By: Captain Jackson

Introduction by Captain Jackson

Recently, Andy Genco of GENCO SHOES (on Mechanic Street next to The Michigan Theatre) mentioned to me, "Do you have any idea how many web sites you`re mentioned on?" I did not. Then I spent an evening checking this out via different search engines. I was amazed at the number. But of all of them I think I was most impressed with the following one which is from Scotland. Granted, it`s a bit of a read but it seems to have been written based on the accomplishments of The CRIMEFIGHTER CORPS. Here it is:

The following article was written by Matt Gemmell:

This article requires a bit of an introductory explanation. The first important point is that it`s not about becoming a police officer, nor any "official" sort of crimefighter. Instead, much more enjoyably, it concentrates on the myths and realities of being the sort of crimefighter shown in cartoons, comicbooks and movies: a lone, mysterious individual, dedicated to justice and the rights of law-abiding citizens. A person who quite probably had a difficult or traumatic past, and who has perhaps suffered great personal loss (or indeed someone who just has unmatched moral fiber and social responsibility). A person who is willing to sacrifice some level of intimacy in their personal lives in order to protect their great secret. In short, what is commonly referred to as a "costumed crimefighter" (though I don`t necessarily endorse the costume idea, as you`ll see).

Secondly, it`s important to make a few disclaimers:

This article does not concern "vigilante" behaviour. The commonly accepted meaning of vigilante is one who punishes lawbreakers personally and illegally, and that`s not something I`d ever endorse. Your aim as a crimefighter is to uphold the law and protect decent citizens, not to dish out revenge attacks on criminals. The police are your greatest asset, so don`t make an enemy of them. I am in no way recommending that you become a real-life crimefighter. This article merely discusses the practicalities as an intellectual exercise. Whether you choose to implement any of this advice is entirely your own business. I am in no way trying to imply that I`m a real-life crimefighter, or that I speak from any kind of personal experience in this area. I`m not saying that at all. Thirdly, this advice is of course non-gender-specific. I use terms such as "hero" to refer to either male or female crimefighters.

Whilst it may seem redundant, I`d also just like to expressly say that this is a serious article. By all means read it for fun, but I`ve tried to make the advice as practical as possible.

With that said, let`s proceed to the article below.

by Matt Gemmell

I think it`s a fairly common fantasy to become a costumed crimefighter, ridding the streets of evildoers under cover of darkness (and a cape). To stand on the tallest rooftoop, your cape blowing in the wind as you survey "your" city for any signs of criminal activity, has a strange appeal for a lot of people (myself included). The vast quantity of superhero comicbooks, cartoons, movies and such are testament to that fact.

However, naturally enough, the crimefighters portrayed in fiction simply wouldn`t survive five minutes in the real world - very likely they`d either be killed, arrested, or they`d give up out of sheer boredom or disgust. So, in order to discuss how to go about being a real-life crimefighter, we need to dispel some of the myths created by popular fiction.

Accordingly, below you`ll find a series of snippets of advice, with each one detailing a fictional "myth" about crimefighting, the real-world "reality", and corresponding "advice". There will also be an "if you must" piece of advice, for those who absolultely must have some of the glamour of a fictional crimefighter. It may not be quite as dramatic or fun as really being Darkwing Duck or whoever, but it will hopefully bring crimefighting into the realms of possibility. So without further ado, let`s begin with one of the biggest attractions of the fictional crimefighter: the costume.


Myth: You can create and wear a fabulously themed costume, complete with mask and often also with a cape, and you will strike terror into the hearts of evildoers on sight.

Reality: If you wear anything that`s unusual, the police will likely question you on sight, and may search you if they suspect you may be concealing a weapon or other illicit items. The "costume party" excuse doesn`t work. The better a costume looks, the more constrictive it is, and the more warm and sweaty you get. Costumes get torn and damaged, and most people don`t have a whole closet full of identical costumes like Batman has. Capes are particularly problematic: if you want a good-looking cape which doesn`t become semi-transparent when you have a light behind you, you`ll find that it`s expensive to get the material, very difficult to make, and extremely warm and heavy. It will not blow dramatically in the wind; it will drag behind you, getting caught on things and getting filthy in puddles. Regarding criminals, some may of course laugh, but generally they will indeed be deeply unsettled (as long as you`re physically intimidating enough - i.e. not 5 feet tall with a delicate bone structure - though a good costume can create a very intimidating impression regardless of the wearer).

Advice: It`s probably best to forget the costume. Dress in normal clothes of darker shades. You`ll be more comfortable and free to move, and you won`t arouse major suspicion on sight. If questioned by police, you`re just out for a night walk. Women probably have an easier time with this, since female fashions tend to not be too far from the wildly dramatic costumes which female crimefighters wear in fiction. Guys, stick with jeans, trainers and a leather jacket.

If you must: If you must wear a costume, make sure it`s not indecent/obscene or otherwise offensive, and the police probably won`t have much to say about it. Be very discreet around well-lit areas, and make sure you can change to look fairly normal at a moment`s notice (for example, have a jacket on under your cape, which you can tuck the cape into if you hear police sirens approaching). Make sure your jacket has pockets to hide your mask. Best of all, dress normally expect for a mask, which can easily be taken off and hidden in a pocket quickly. Wear a reversible jacket, to change the colour of your jacket so you can`t easily be visually tracked through a crowd. If you have long hair, keep it tied up when crimefighting, then let it down when you`re blending into the background. Choose black or dark shades, no matter how tempting it is to dress in purple (which I admit is a fabulous colour for crimefighter costumes in fiction).


Myth: You should carry some insanely powerful themed weapon, or a firearm, and use it to collar the criminal scum you encounter.

Reality: You will (quite rightly) be arrested, or you`ll accidentally kill someone and completely destroy your entire life. You may even accidentally kill yourself, or allow a criminal to steal your weapon. If the police catch you with a weapon, it`s all over (particularly in the UK). Carrying weapons is bad news, and if you do so then you`ve become part of the problem.

Advice: Don`t carry weapons (not even if you`re in America, and can legally get your hands on heavy artillery whilst shopping for groceries). Guns just invite horrible accidents - if you have a gun, you`re tempted to use it when in danger. Regarding more exotic weapons, leave them at home too - the police don`t take kindly to seeing people wielding crossbows or tasers or ninja weaponry. Learn a martial art like karate, and reach a high level of competence and achievement. Take courses in stick-fighting and disarming an opponent who has a knife (your sensei will very likely know appropriate other teachers who can tutor you in the appropriate arts). Don`t carry sticks or knives yourself, though; just be able to deal with them should the situation arise. Remember that the best way to win a fight is not to get involved in one, and that you very likely have the psychological advantages of surprise and mystery on your side, which can be used to sufficiently unsettle the criminal that he/she runs off instead of attacking.

If you must: If you absolutely must carry a weapon, make it part of your normal civilian appearance, such as having a hockey stick in a carry case over your shoulder, like you`re returning from hockey practice. Be aware that this excuse won`t work if it`s 4 in the morning, or if you`re wearing a costume. If you do use such an excuse, make sure you can fill in all the details - exactly where the hockey ground is, the rules of hockey, and so on. Hockey is a good one since the stick is a fairly useful weapon, and you can practice hockey alone, so you don`t necessarily need to arrange for someone to corroborate your alibi. I strongly recommend that you do not carry any weapons.


Myth: You should have a vehicle painted in the same colours and motifs as your costume, probably with outrageously bright headlights and some kind of weaponry welded to the side.

Reality: If you have a weapon (or something that looks like one) attached to a vehicle, you will instantly be arrested by an entire armed response unit. Even tinted windows are illegal in many places. If your car doesn`t have a license plate, you`ll be pulled over immediately.

Advice: Operate in your local neighbourhood; it`s a lot easier to disappear on foot than when you have a vehicle to take care of. If you must use a vehicle, make it a completely normal one, with a license plate and paid-up vehicle tax etc. If you`re being pursued, don`t try to get to your vehicle - leave it behind and come back for it the next day during the daylight hours. Keep your car somewhere other than at your home, in case you`re followed. Make especially sure that the car is of a very common colour and model, and has no particular distinguishing marks (other than the plates). Don`t keep anything in it which would indicate your crimefighter identity (or your real identity). Never, ever keep a police band radio in your car - you`re just begging to be fined or arrested and have your car impounded. Make sure the car is fully roadworthy and up to all legal standards for your country. Always stop if the police require you to; it`s better to let a bad guy get away than to be fined, and you can simply tell the police about the criminal immediately. If you`re tempted to get into a car chase, don`t - just call the police with the license number and description of the vehicle and driver, and they`ll apprehend him for you. After all, you`d be taking him to the police station afterwards anyway, so why risk your own money, vehicle and life unnecessarily?

If you must: If you must have a more dramatic vehicle, get a motorbike. You can paint bikes in practically any colour scheme you like and people don`t think it`s unusual (even if you have flames painted along the side and evil red eyes starting out from the front) - a lot of motorbikes are factory-painted in a way that looks almost like the sort of thing you see in cartoons. You can also get away faster in emergencies than almost any car, bikes are much cheaper than cars, and you can go places a car can`t. However, you can also die much more easily, so be sensible and be very experienced first. Just don`t try crimefighting whilst wearing biker leathers, since you`ll die from heat exhaustion - but you might want to wear biker gloves as they`re usually very superhero-ish. Resist the temptation to speed; use the bike for maneuverability, visual flair and gunning the engine threateningly from the darkness of an alley...


Myth: You can skulk around rooftops, swooping down to apprehend vile villains before they know what`s hit them.

Reality: You will fall, or get stuck, or waken someone and be arrested for trespassing or attempted burglary. You will activate alarms and be chased by armed security guards. You will quickly learn that in the average city you can`t go over more than about two consecutive rooftops before having to return to street level. You`ll find that it`s almost impossible to get onto any rooftops in the first place. You`ll learn that even a small fall is enough to break your ankles, legs or even neck. In the amazing circumstance that you do manage to spot a crime from a rooftop, by the time you get down the criminals will be far away (or waiting for you with a gun), since it will take you a few minutes to get down safely, and you`ll make a lot of noise doing so. You cannot get grappling-hook guns, and even if you could you`d find that the chances of them hooking onto anything are about one in a million - and the police would arrest you for carrying one.

Advice: Stay on the ground. You can spring into action or escape much faster, it`s less risky, you can go unnoticed much more easily, and you won`t get trapped.

If you must: If you must climb onto rooftops, make absolutely certain there`s no-one around, and that no-one can see you from a neighbouring building. Only go up briefly to survey the general area, then return to the ground. Don`t stand in full view of half the city with your cape flapping in the wind; the police will be called by about twenty different people within two minutes. If you must look out over your city with your cape drawn around you, feeling powerful and heroic and mysterious, do it in the hour or so before first light - no-one is around or watching at that time, and you`ll get a much better view. Finally, don`t push your luck - it`s easy to stay up there fantasising about people watching in awe from their darkened windows, wondering who this shadowy saviour is - but just don`t stay up there for more than a few minutes at most. I do understand that for most people, standing on darkened rooftops is an integral part of the crimefighting experience.


Myth: You can give yourself a fabulously dramatic name, and use it to strike terror into the hearts of evildoers.

Reality: Evildoers will laugh at your dramatic name, and it will make citizens question your sanity.

Advice: By all means give yourself a dramatic name, but don`t tell it to anyone (not even to criminals or the people you save from them).

If you must: If you must tell your dramatic name to others, only do so to people you`ve saved once the criminal has been neutralised and has run off. Disguise your voice, and say as little as possible. Stay in dim light or darkness, and don`t say a single word if you know the person or if you have any kind of connection with them. Don`t narrate your actions aloud or congratulate yourself (like Darkwing Duck does), since you`ll only convince the saved person that you`re just as dangerous as the criminal was, or give away your position. If you`re questioned by police, you`re required to give your full real name and your address (which will be much easier to do if you`re not wearing a costume). If you give a false name or address, you could technically be arrested. Remember, work with the police.


Myth: 13-year-old heroes and heroines can sneak out at night, using all manner of elaborate excuses, and defend the city from evil.

Reality: Young people aren`t allowed to go out at night, or are followed by their parents. They have no real privacy and don`t have a powerful position in society (in terms of eliciting cooperation from adults). They`re instantly questioned by police when seen out alone late at night, and others call police much more quickly when they see a lone young person. Young people aren`t taken seriously by villains, are slower and weaker than older people, can`t operate or own vehicles, have very limited resources, and have voices which aren`t at all intimidating.

Advice: Don`t try to be a crimefighter until you`re at least 21 years old. Use the years before that to train yourself - learn a martial art, and obtain your academic qualifications which will ensure an excellent quality of life in the future. Every test you pass at school is a vitally important step towards becoming an effective crimefighter. It`s also important to balance the zeal of the teenage years with a degree of perspective and maturity, otherwise you could find yourself overreacting to situations and unintentionally getting yourself into considerable trouble.

If you must: Really, don`t go out fighting crime until you`re 21 (or 18 at the very minimum). If you must defend the city when you`re younger, do so by standing up for justice and honesty and decency during your daily life. There`s no greater contribution you can make than that.

Living at Home

Myth: You can be a crimefighter even when you`re living with other people (husband/wife, room-mates, parents), sneaking out and back in without arousing suspicion.

Reality: You really have to be living alone in order to be a crimefighter, and in any case not with your parents. You`ll be found out for certain otherwise.

Advice: Don`t be a crimefighter until you have a place of your own. Use the time up until then to train yourself physically and mentally.

If you must: If you really must do something so risky as sneaking out to fight crime when there are others in your home, don`t go out every night. Try to set a regular night or two each week, and make it coincide with some plausible activity. Maybe you go out to the pub and clubs with friends on Friday nights and don`t arrive back until the early hours of the morning, whereas you actually go out crimefighting.

Making a Dramatic Entrance

Myth: You can make hugely overblown dramatic entrances, and not only will criminals be terrified, they`ll wait for you to finish your speech before attacking you or trying to escape. Darkwing Duck`s "I am the terror that flaps in the night..." entrances are a good example of this.

Reality: As soon as you open your mouth or make a single noise, a criminal will either run away (which is a good thing) or will attack you (which is not at all good). They will indeed tend to be very unsettled, but fear and surprise can provoke rash reactions rather than capitulation.

Advice: Don`t make dramatic entrances; it damages your effectiveness and removes the element of surprise if the entrance is long-winded.

If you must: If you must make dramatic entrances, remember that the criminal may react unpredictably. Also remember that your entrance shouldn`t involve any kind of attack - your first action is to inform the criminal that they`re under arrest (see the Taking crooks in section below).

People you know

Myth: You can save the beautiful girl (or handsome guy) that you know from work/university/etc, and they won`t recognise you in your mask (or in the darkness of the alley, or whatever). Then, the next day, they`ll excitedly tell you and your friends all about the mysterious hero/heroine who saved them last night, who they`re now completely in love with. At some later time, you`ll tell them of your secret identity, and then the two of you will get married - perhaps with the girl/guy becoming your sidekick.

Reality: You will be recognised instantly, no matter how well disguised you are or how much you try to distort your voice. You will be found out by everyone you know, and people will avoid you forever.

Advice: If you have the misfortune to stumble upon someone you know being the victim of a crime, get rid of your costume before intervening. You may also want to take the opportunity to call the police.

If you must: If you must save the person whilst wearing a costume/mask, you should expect to be recognised. Under no circumstances should you try to take the criminal out from afar, by using some kind of projectile weapon or throwing something - that`s illegal. If you are recognised, honesty is the best approach - remove your mask (if appropriate), and explain why you do what you do, and the successes you`ve had. You may also want to consider changing your daytime social habits, to avoid difficult situations should the person not take the news very well.

Leaving a Calling Card

Myth: You can leave some kind of calling card at the scene of a crime you`ve foiled, for the police to find - perhaps an actual card with your hero logo on it, or a spraypainted logo on a wall, or some such thing.

Reality: Forensic analysis is more advanced than you can possibly imagine. You will be found out, without any question. If you spray a logo onto a wall, you`re technically committing a crime yourself. Leaving a calling card connects all your adventures together for the police, and they will make a point of finding you. Besides, you should already be working with the police, so they should know you already.

Advice: Don`t leave a calling card. When you`re just starting out, don`t get cute and leave calling cards to introduce yourself to the police - it will make it practically impossible to gain their trust later. After all, it`s not exactly normal behaviour.

If you must: If you must leave a calling card (and I think it`s suicide to do so), be sensible with regard to fingerprints, hair, blood and so on. Don`t leave any traces of yourself at all (except the calling card, that is). Use generic stationery or items; don`t use anything that requires a special order or some kind of custom manufacturing - it`s far too easy to trace. Don`t home-make calling cards manually (unless you`re just printing them out from a computer), since you`ll cover them with fingerprints and tell-tale DNA. And needless to say, don`t include telephone numbers or any other information that could be traced to your real identity. But, you should not leave calling cards!

Taking crooks in

Myth: You can drop criminals outside the front steps of the police station, then vanish into the night to await the morning edition of the newspapers which will ask who the mysterious masked avenger is.

Reality: If you`ve injured the criminal, you`re probably in big trouble. If you leave the criminal outside a police station and vanish into the night, it`s your word against his - and you`re not even there! Also, you`re baiting the police.

Advice: The key point here is about how you deal with the situation when you witness a crime being committed. The cartoons and comicbooks would have you believe that it`s okay to physically attack a criminal because they`ve committed a crime - that is not okay at all! Instead, you should arrest them (as an ordinary citizen, you very likely have the full legal right to place a criminal under arrest - you certainly do in the UK), and take them to the police. You are legally empowered to use "reasonable force" in making them comply with the arrest, but you`re certainly not empowered to punch first and ask questions later. First make the arrest verbally, then take them away. If they resist, use reasonable force. If they attack, you`re entitled to defend yourself. Remember that it`s often an acceptable outcome for the criminal to escape; for example, if they`re breaking into a house but haven`t gotten away with the loot, it would be acceptable to scare them off, since then the innocent citizen won`t have lost their belongings. With the overloaded justice system, it would probably be senseless to chase a criminal and attempt to get them convicted for attempted burglary.

If you must: If you must take crooks in, and the crime befits it, then stick to the following guidelines if you`re in the UK. If you`re elsewhere, check your local laws regarding "citizen`s arrest". Above all, remember that the police are there and are always available - if in any doubt at all, call them and explain the situation. Needless to say, the following information applies only to the UK, and is only my interpretation of the law from assorted sources. I`m confident of its accuracy, but I don`t guarantee it - and I strongly recommend you consult a qualified legal professional to verify everything.

Citizen`s Arrest
The Power to Arrest Without a Warrant (Sec. 24 & 25, PACE = Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984)

Both citizens and the police can arrest someone where there is reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is in the course of committing an "arrestable offence". Only the police can arrest someone who is about to commit an arrestable offence. You do not require a warrant to make a citizen`s arrest.

In order to arrest someone: - It must be for an arrestable offence (see Arrestable Offences below). - You must tell them you are placing them under (citizen`s) arrest. - You must tell them the grounds (reason) for the arrest. - You must caution them (see Caution below). - You must take them to a police station as soon as practicable (if you detain them for an extended period without taking them to the police, you are guilty of kidnapping). - You must NOT search them (you can invite them to turn out their pockets or such, but you may NOT do so yourself, even if they invite you to). - You must NOT question them. - You are empowered to use "reasonable" force to detain them, but be cautious; use no more force than is necessary, and if the situation turns unpleasant, call the police at once. Remember that it`s better to let them get away than to be injured.

The arrest will be unlawful (and thus you could be sued or worse) if it does not result in the conviction of someone (not necessarily the person you arrested) for the given offence. So, be certain and have evidence, and preferably eyewitnesses.

Assuming your citizen`s arrest is lawful, it is unlawful for the arrested person to attempt to resist arrest, and if they do resist they can be charged. Conversely, if your arrest is unlawful for any reason, the person has the legal right to use "reasonable" force to resist, and thus could probably not be charged with assault if they injured you during an attempt to resist the unlawful arrest.

Arrestable Offences: Offences where the sentence is fixed by law - eg. murder (life imprisonment). Offences where the sentence can exceed 5 years imprisonment. Offences under the PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT and the OFFICIAL SECRETS ACTS. "Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour causing alarm, distress or harassment" [Sec. 5 PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1986] "Making off without payment" [Sec. 3 THEFT ACT 1978] "Taking a motor vehicle without authority" [Sec. 12 THEFT ACT 1978] Breach of the peace. This is a common law offence and the police have the power to arrest for breach of the peace independent of PACE. The power arises out of their duty to maintain the Queen`s peace. "There is a breach of the peace whenever harm is actually done or threatened to be done or is likely to be done to a person, or in his presence to his property, or a person is in fear of being so harmed through assault, an affray, a riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance:" R v Howell (1981) 73 Criminal Appeal Reports 31 (Court of Appeal). Remember that, as a citizen, the breach must be clearly in progress or already have been committed - only the police can arrest for crimes they believe will happen in the future. Breach of the peace would cover break-ins and such.

Caution: The wording of the standard caution which should be given immediately after an arrest is as follows: "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

Above all, resist any temptation to imply that you`re a police officer! I recommend that you specifically say that you`re placing the criminal under "citizen`s arrest", rather than just "arrest", since this explicitly states that you`re not acting as a police officer in the matter.

As a final note, take heart that the law fully endorses your desire to bring criminals to justice - but just do it in such a way as to not break the law yourself. You have plenty of scope to fight crime within the laws, so there shouldn`t be any need to contravene or ignore them. And always remember: if in any doubt at all, for any reason, just call the police - they`re there to help.

Solving cases

Myth: You can gather subtle clues and eventually put an end to international crime rings and other such grand-scale institutions of evil.

Reality: You will be arrested for crossing police lines, or witnesses will refuse to cooperate, or you`ll be killed by organised crime. You very likely don`t have the equipment or skills to properly analyse clues from a crimescene (it`s not like Sherlock Holmes in real life; you do need a forensics team).

Advice: Stick with muggings, burglaries and so on. Don`t try to solve big crimes - you just don`t have the socially-endorsed authority, resources or skills to do so effectively.

If you must: If you must search for clues in larger crimes, report them to the police - don`t try going over to the warehouse at the docks yourself, or you`ll be either arrested or killed. Take great care not to be seen to be interfering in a police investigation - that`s a serious offence. It doesn`t matter how good your relationship is with the local police force, just don`t interfere with cases they`re investigating.

Gadgets and gimmicks

Myth: You can walk around laden with gadgetry and equipment, ready for any contingency at all times.

Reality: Everything you`re carrying will get broken within half an hour, will make huge amounts of noise, and will have you sweating like a pig within minutes. It`s also possible you`ll be robbed (yes, it could happen), and lose a substantial investment (whilst feeling extremely foolish).

Advice: The most you really need is a pair of thin gloves, and possibly a Maglite (small flashlight/torch). Both are entirely legal, and are perfectly reasonable items to carry when going for a walk at night. I also strongly recommend you carry a small mobile phone (cellphone), with the number of your local police station programmed into it. Make sure the phone is charged before you go out.

If you must: If you must take some gadgetry, try a small digital video camera with a zoom function (for taking evidence shots/films and also instead of bulky and suspicious binoculars). Note that video footage of a crime being committed will be extremely useful to the police, and as justification if you arrest someone. Just don`t be seen to be invading people`s privacy; I`d advise only using such a device to view or record outside events - don`t go peeking through curtains into people`s homes!

The Police

Myth: The police will gladly accept your help, since you`re both really on the same side.

Reality: The police really will gladly accept your help, assuming that you`re behaving in a lawful way.

Advice: The police are your allies in the fight against crime. They have far greater resources and manpower than you do, and they facilitate the completion of the crimefighting process by prosecuting criminals. The police are not to be avoided or circumvented, they are your fellow concerned citizens who have dedicated their lives to cleaning up our society. Always work with the police - if nothing else, all your favourite fictional crimefighters certainly do!

As with anyone else, the police will have to learn to trust you. You will likely be turning in criminals on a fairly regular basis, and especially if you wear some kind of costume, you`re going to encounter suspicion - but this is only to be expected. It`s worth saying that your dealings with the police may be smoothed if you don`t wear a costume, but I don`t think it`s anything like the insurmountable obstacle you might think. Provided you`re upholding law and order, strictly following all laws regarding apprehending criminals, and always keeping the police fully informed, then they will gladly assist you.

Build a solid working relationship with your local police force. Once you`ve handed in a few criminals, you may want to try to arrange a meeting with your local chief of police to discuss what could be done to improve the situation in your area. The police are always more than willing to help citizens to take an active part in the fight against crime, and the idea of a "neighbourhood watch" (which is almost what you`re doing) isn`t at all unusual. Always know and obey the law, expect no special treatment and take no liberties, and acknowledge that you are assisting the police, not the other way around. You`ll be surprised just how much the police will cooperate with you - giving you a large portion of the glamour of your favourite fictional crimefighter!

If you think that the idea of a costumed crimefighter becoming an ally of the police force, being recognised and praised by the citizens day and night, being featured constantly in local media and making a real difference is pure fiction, then believe me, it can happen: the city of Jackson in Michigan in the USA has its very own real superhero squad, consisting of Captain Jackson, Crimefighter Girl and The Queen of Hearts. These are genuine crimefighters, not actors or gimmicks. Read more about their remarkable story here.

If you must: See the "Advice" section above. You must indeed work with the police!

Telling people your secret

Myth: You can tell your partner or very best friend about your nocturnal life, and they will stand by you, providing assistance and alibis.

Reality: People understandably react fairly extremely to the news that their friend/husband/wife/etc is a crimefighter. The instant assumption will be that you have a psychological problem (which might be true, actually), and that you need help. In any case, the secret won`t stay secret for much longer.

Advice: Don`t tell anyone. If you get married or such, consider giving up crimefighting (I know that sounds terrible, but you can contribute to society in many other ways).

If you must: If you must tell someone, or recruit a sidekick or crimefighting partner, be absolutely, totally sure that they`re 100% trustworthy. As unpleasant as it sounds, ideally you`d have a piece of information about them which they wouldn`t want to get out either, as insurance for both of you. Have a damned good reason for telling them, such as they`re a highly skilled warrior with a keen sense of morality, and you`d like them to join you. Be prepared to lose all contact with them. Avoid the temptation to tell them everything in one night; subtly bring the topic into the conversation a number of times, to see how they feel about the crimefighter concept (this is easy to do if you`ve both just watched a Batman movie or such) - if they show no enthusiasm, or are openly dismissive or derisive, just leave well alone.

The hideout

Myth: You should have a themed hideout, most likely with a crimefighting computer, a training area, and assorted gadgets. Perhaps you`ll also have a forensic chemistry lab, and an elaborate garage for your vehicle.

Reality: It`s hugely expensive, and people will not react at all positively if they find it (which they will). Derelict buildings are derelict for a reason: they`re dangerous, and you may be killed if you go into them. They will also be knocked down eventually, destroying your very pricey equipment. If it`s not your property, you`re trespassing.

Advice: Your home is your hideout. You only need your regular computer and a couple of drawers for your clothing or costume. Your training area is the local gym or fitness centre. Leave the forensics to the police (hand evidence into your local police station, in your civilian guise and during daylight hours). Keep your vehicle in a normal garage.

If you must: If you must have a separate hideout, make sure you own it. Also make sure it has an excellent security system, and that if someone was to break in that they wouldn`t immediately be able to trace you to your home and real identity. Password-protect your computer and encrypt all sensitive files. Keep your costume at home, not dramatically displayed on a mannequin in the centre of the floor of your hideout - no matter how incredibly tempting it might be!

And that`s about it!

If you have any further thoughts on the practicalities of crimefighting, or any comments on the above, don`t hesitate to send them along. And, please, remember that this article is an intellectual exercise only - I am in no way endorsing or recommending the idea of ordinary citizens becoming crimefighters. It`s extremely risky, involves huge personal sacrifices, and certainly isn`t to be undertaken lightly.

The police are there, so call them if something wrong is going on. You can contribute to society in many other positive ways, which will still reap great personal rewards for you, and won`t threaten your life or anyone else`s.

And if, despite my warnings, you`ve already decided to become a crimefighter... good luck out there!

Copyright 2002, CFC

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