LOWELL — As someone who has made more than 700 DUI arrests in his career, Lowell Cpl. Aaron Crawford has made a name for himself among fellow officers and civilians alike.
From the infamous "Honey Bee Killer" to a wallaby on the run, Crawford discusses what its like to serve the southern tip of Lake County.
Crawford, 42, said while Lowell is a relatively sleepy town compared to its northern counterparts, occasionally a crime strikes that leaves the community in shock.
The 17th installment of "Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops" takes a look at a day in the life of Crawford. To view a video of the ride-along with Crawford cruising through Lowell, visit nwi.com.
Q: How long have you been doing police work and what positions have you held?
A: Since 2007. I was in reserves for about 10 months and a full-time spot came open and I tested for that and was lucky enough to get in. That was in July 2008 and almost 13 years later, here I am. I started off as a patrolman and now I’m a corporal and also a field training officer.
Q: How old were you when you started police work?
A: I was 26 or 27 when I started in reserves.
Q: What is the earliest memory you have of wanting to get into law enforcement?
A: Originally coming out of high school, I had no idea what I was going to do. Both my parents worked in the steel mill and we weren’t rich, just blue collar. We had a decent upbringing and I thought I was just going to work in the steel mill like they did. I got out of school, worked retail for a couple years, worked at the steel mill for a little bit and then ended up back in retail because I was laid off from the mill.
One night I was driving home from work and my car broke down and a Hobart officer actually pulled over and stopped to check on me. I told him I was OK and he said, “At least let me give you a ride so you’re not walking.” So he gives me a ride and while we’re driving, I start asking him questions, “What’s it really like? What do you guys really do? Obviously you see the TV shows and everything…”
And he just kind of laid it out there. He said, “Look, there’s times it’s fun and exciting; there’s times it’s boring and nothing is going on. Doing all the paper work is not always fun, but overall it’s a great job and a great career.”
So I thought it was interesting and started applying and kept making hiring lists, but wasn’t making it on to full time. And then Lowell had a reserve process and I came down and applied for it and got it. My first call I got, I was hooked. It was a hit-and-run accident on the other side of town. The field training officer at the time he said, “Hey, you’re with me. Let’s go.” We jumped into the squad and started screaming over there. It ended up a car had side swiped another car — nothing big. But once we got into the car, and running over there, that was it. I was hooked.
Q: What’s kept you in the force with the same department?
A: Honestly, I truly love it. It’s fun to come out here. You know, you work retail or the mill, it was the same thing every day. You come in, do whatever tasks had to do, and that was it. Everyday; same thing. That’s not bad, but it’s just not what I wanted to do. Here, every day is different. Like right now, we have nothing going on but the next call we get, things could explode. No two days are the same. That’s what I like.
Q: What are some of the most outrageous or crazy encounters you’ve had in years on the force?
There’s funny stuff, there’s bad stuff. Obviously anything with kids, that stuff sticks with you. But sometimes dealing with the drunks; they’re angry, they’re happy, they’re sad, they’re crying. For some reason, they’re throwing up and I’m laughing at them while they’re doing that. I just think it’s funny. You see people shot and people fighting. There’s so much going on, it’s crazy sometimes. It’s a lot. You see a lot. You do a lot. But like I said, it’s fun.
Q: You mentioned a recent bar fight you guys had to respond to, what happened there?
A: So we got a call to one of the bars out here and the way it was dispatched was six people fighting in the parking lot. So we go over there and there’s three of us working that night. From what we’ve gathered, there was a guy who had shown up pretty heavily intoxicated. He started going around the bar and calling females vulgar names. He ended up punching a female at the bar and in turn, her husband went after him to defend his wife and it spilled to the outside parking lot. Punches were thrown.
Q: With all of the rural land out here, does Lowell police ever have to deal with farm mishaps, like animals on the loose?
A: It’s funny because people will say, “What’s going on in Lowell? You guy's have a loose cow or something?” We have heard county dealing with that stuff out there, but we’ve never dealt with anything like that. Worse thing we had was a petting zoo that came to town two or three years ago and one the kangaroos or something got loose and supposedly were spotted around in this area, so we got a lot of calls about that.
Q: You mean the infamous escaped wallaby? Has he been found yet?
A: Yes, the wallaby. As far as we know, nobody ever found him.
Q: You can only hope for the best. I remember when it happened, everyone was posting wallaby sightings on Facebook. It took the town by storm.
A: If you look at the Lowell Facebook page, it’s still a running joke.
Q: That’s the interesting thing, Lowell seems like a bit of a Mayberry, small town where it’s pretty quiet, but you occasionally have things that rock the area, such as the veteran being shot earlier this year in his home. Or, though it didn’t happen here, there’s the Lowell resident Natalie Ramstrom who was murdered in Michigan. What are some things you feel rocked this more quiet area of the county?
A: When I first got on, one of the big ones was the “Honey Bee Killer.” That had happened right here outside of town. We don’t have a lot of the problems they have up north, which we’re grateful for. A lot of the bigger problems they’re having, we don’t want down here. Like you said it’s a smaller town but we do get instances like that.
We had a guy rob the gas station last year. Talking about Natalie Ramstrom, she was from town and the guy who is alleged to have murdered her is from town. We’ve dealt with him many times. I, personally, had dealt with him many times. But we get a couple big things every year. We had a guy barricade himself in a house not too long ago. He had some warrants and we tried to get him out and he was threatening to shoot officers. So we ended up having to call Lake County and sent their SWAT team down to talk him down. We get a little bit of everything, but we don’t get it as bad as some other departments do.
Q: Going back to the “Honey Bee Killer,” what was it like dealing with that as an officer?
A: When that happened, people were all up in arms and calling us for every little thing. Which is fine, if you hear something out in your yard call us, let us check it out and if it’s nothing, its nothing, you know? But this town, unfortunately misinformation spreads so quick and people get worked up over things they don’t necessarily need to be worked up over.
Q: Lowell has been named as one of the safest towns in Indiana. What do you feel about Lowell?
A: I wasn’t born and raised here but if I didn’t feel it was a safe community to raise my family, I wouldn’t have moved them here. While we are smaller, we are starting to really grow. We are starting to get a lot of residents from Illinois and from north of U.S. 30. We are still able to do a pretty good job to keep it safe.
Q: How have you seen Lowell change since you got here and how does that affect how you all police the community?
A: The residential areas have blown up. We are seeing a lot of people move in. Most of them are really the kind of people you want moving here. They’re quiet, they don’t cause any problems. They moved down here because they wanted a smaller place they can raise their kids where its relatively safe where you don’t have the issues bigger cities have. But you starting to see, especially right now, you see rush hour so there’s a lot more traffic. Which on afternoons can make it harder to get around. But it’s just growing we are seeing unfortunately some people who had problems elsewhere, bring problems here.
Q: What’s been a time that’s personally touched you?
A: One time, I stopped this girl and ended up arresting her. She was really intoxicated. And she end up moving out of town a year later I remember getting a card from her. She had moved to Tennessee. And she was like, “Hey I appreciate what you did that night, even though I was upset with you, it made me reevaluate what I was doing in life. And I’ve changed and now I have a kid and I want her to be a good person. So did a lot of changing and I don’t do the things I used to do.” When you hear stuff like that, it’s kind of nice.
Q: What's something that the public doesn't know about police work but should be aware of?
A: One that we're just normal people; we're just like everybody else. We've got families and we go out and do things. We're not robots. Just because I wear a little star or shield that says police, doesn't mean I am not just a normal dude. I do normal things like everybody else. In the summertime I like to go to the beach and play with my kids and play video games or play sports.
I think if people understood that we're just normal people, that we're just doing a job — I think most people understand that but there's a lot of people that don't, though.
Q: You said you have made more than 700 DUI arrests in your career, would you say you have built a reputation?
A: I guess. Every once and a while a guy will say hey, I saw your arrest or I heard you have this many, or whatever. I had a county guy one time, he said, "Man, every time I come through Lowell I can't find anything. I look at the screen and you've got one or two. He's like, "How do you do it?" I don't know. Right spot, right time. I've been doing it for 13 years, been pretty consistent. Averaging 60 to 70 DUI arrests a year. In a town of 11,000 people, that's quite a bit.
Q: What's it like working at a police station in the middle of a cemetery?
A: We joke there's a ghost on the PD with it being in the cemetery. We were sitting there one night and we got a weight room downstairs and we heard a big slam. Like, "Who is down stairs?" Everyone said there was no one downstairs. "But you guys heard that, right? Someone should go check."
And they said, "I'm not going down there, it's the ghost." They wouldn't do it and I went down there and came back up. They asked, "Who's down there." I said, "There's no one down there." They were like, "No, there's got to be someone down there." I said, "I'm serious, there was no one." It was the ghost.