Spotter's Guide: How to Spot Unmarked Cop Cars
Most of the time, police cars stand out. They're supposed to do that. You've likely seen plenty of Ford Crown Victoria cruisers. Also known as the CVPI (Crown Victoria Police Interceptor), it has been a staple of many state, county, and local police departments since 1992. But what do officers drive when they don't want to be noticed? We'll show you in an AOL Autos' guide to covert cruisers.
Departments often use the unmarked Crown Victoria for traffic patrols (we'll show you photos in a few frames). But as if this weren't sneaky enough, some agencies drive the Ford Mustang. This particular high-performance GT V-8 muscle car patrols Harper Woods, Michigan. One side of the Mustang is a "plain wrapper," while the other sports full-on police markings.
Police cars need specific equipment to perform their appointed rounds. Many of them are visible to the trained eye, even on unmarked cars. For example, this image shows where lights are commonly added:
- In the grill
- On the exterior mirrors
- Along the top edge of the windshield
Further observation reveals the radar and video camera mounted on the dash.
It may be hardest to recognize the stealth Mustang GT police car from the side. A keen eye will note:
- Flasher lights in the rear quarter window
- A marker/flasher on the front quarter panel
- Stubby radio antennas on the trunk lid mounted just ahead of the rear spoiler
The patrol officer's brush cut, sunglasses and department patch on his jacket's sleeve may only become visible once he is writing your ticket.
Spotting a covert police cruiser from the rear is difficult. The stripes, rear spoiler, and the "GT" emblem help this Mustang blend with traffic. But even this car shows some cop car cues:
- Each state has an official municipal license plate. Learn your state's plate. For example, Michigan's has an "X" in the middle.
- Short police radio antennas on the trunk lid
- Look in the rear window for blue and red flashers
The Ford Crown Victoria has been a police workhorse for nearly two decades. It was introduced in 1992. Often, police departments will use marked and unmarked versions of the "Vickies" for traffic patrol work. But how can you tell whether you're about to speed pass a sedan issued to the Water and Sewage Department or to the police department?
Just like the stealth Mustang, a working CVPI patrol car needs specific equipment to do its job. Find the following in this photo:
- Front push bar
- Front bumper lights
- Remote spotlights
- Mirror-mounted flashers
- Radar unit and radios on dash
While this may look like a plain Crown Victoria, the following pieces of equipment quickly ID this as a fully-prepared and in-service 2009 Police Interceptor:
- Steel wheels with chrome center hubcaps
- Bars between front and rear seats to keep the bad guys in their place
- Police antenna on trunk lid
From the rear, this Ford Crown Victoria could be a driven by a worker from your city's water department or by somebody's grandmother. However, these features reveal it to be a cop car:
- Short police radio antenna on trunk
- Rear-facing radar
- Light flashers in rear window
- Government license plate
- Police Interceptor badge
Now you know how to spot an unmarked police car. Use your knowledge wisely.
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