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If you read the previous post, then you know I discussed two shops in particular where there was not just a good relationship with the local police and sheriff’s departments, but a sort of interrelationship and sense of community. I mentioned giving discounts to law enforcement and first responders, etc. This not only helps build good relationships, but adds to your client base as well. I would add that some of the coolest tattoos I have seen a shop get to do were on police officers who had placed their trust in a shop to the point that they were getting full back pieces. They were respectful and had some great ideas that any tattooer would want to put in their portfolios. The tattooers always knew that the police were present and willing to help in the event of problems. There was trust on both sides. There were both friendships and professional relationships. So how do you open a dialogue to get to that point? Funny you should ask.
First, let’s look at the local level. This is the easiest and most practical. You might even decide that you don’t want to go beyond this. However, you simply talk to them. Most law enforcement is structured basically the same. That means you probably have a couple of officers that are assigned to your neighborhood or area as a regular beat. Some areas they might even come introduce themselves. Some, you might just have to strike up a conversation when you see them out. Let them know what shop you work at. Let them know you give discounts to law enforcement, thus showing you respect and appreciate them. Then if you feel comfortable, ask them if you can help them in any way. See if they want to swap resources on gang tattoos and keep each other updated on stuff happening in your area. Most cops are not going to turn down an offer to make their lives safer and their jobs easier. Get to know them and I promise, you’ll be surprised.
If you are in a larger city or metro area, you may even have a gang task force or specific division of your local law enforcement dedicated to gangs. If that is the case, then it should be as simple as going to their website and seeing who they are, then make a phone call or email. Again, most cops are not going to turn down people willing to help make their lives easier.
Another option if you are in a larger city is to forge relationships with federal law enforcement. I work out on a regular basis with one of our local FBI guys here in Memphis. He’s a genuinely nice guy. Now this is not going to have as big of an impact on you, since you are less likely to see the Feds on a regular basis. You can reach out on this level and still remain respectful of your clients and their general right to privacy.
Privacy and integrity aside, you may also have the opportunity to go as far as contributing to one of the database efforts that Federal law enforcement has been pushing for years. I’m not a big advocate of this, mainly because I do respect people’s privacy and I also see the slippery slope that could lead such a database to misuse on a broader level. Regardless, I suggest reading the following articles and doing some serious thinking before choosing this route.
Most law enforcement agencies have some degree of training for dealing with heavy gang areas, which usually includes a crash course on tattoos. That is why most of the best databases I find are on .gov or other federal databases. There are also any number of books on the subject available through Amazon.
One more thing
If you notice, the Homeland Security link I put up also mentions sex trafficking. This is a good reminder that tattoos can be used to identify beyond just gang tattoos, but also sex crimes as well. Like gangs, most cities have a sexual assault and/or sex trafficking unit or something similar.