Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Partners in Crime, the Kansas City chapter of Sisters in Crime, is a rocking bunch. They meet each month at a local Borders, and they always invite a speaker—sometimes an author, more often someone in law enforcement, such as a police officer, district attorney, private eye, or forensic investigator. No matter who they have, the talk is always interesting.

This month’s speaker had been AT&T’s head of security for nearly 30 years, and honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to hearing him all that much. I mean, security guy for the phone company? But, as always, the talk turned out to be fascinating. Corporate security is more than the guards at the door in the pretend police uniforms. The speaker’s department was more like a detective unit, and he regaled us with stories about the cases they handled, including working surveillance to uncover fraud in various locations, such as residential streets, softball games, and a bowling alley. It turns out that when you’re lying low in a residential area, trying to monitor a house, Neighborhood Watch is your worst enemy. (Luckily, if you work for the phone company, you can cook up a cover story about testing signal strength in the area.)

He told us about trying to protect an employee who’d been stalked by an increasingly threatening guy for over two years, to the point of being stabbed in the back while she was out shopping. . . only to find that the woman was stalking—and had stabbed—herself.

He also told us about heading off disgruntled ex-employees who were at high risk for returning to the workplace loaded with weapons. One thing the security department looked for was what he called an Avenger Personality. I know—sounds like a comic book superhero. But in this case it’s the personality type most likely to shoot up a former workplace: white male, usually middle-aged, with an obvious obsession with guns and/or the military (but who has probably never been in the military) and very little in the way of a support system (he’s divorced/never married and is estranged from his family). These were the guys they looked out for, and in at least one case, they thwarted what could have been a real tragedy. They stopped a recently fired man as he drove back into the parking lot, and in his car found a gun, a machete, and his handwritten last will and testament.


As I listened to this man talk, I realized why every Partners in Crime speaker is so fascinating. If you get a person who is truly good at—and loves—his job and ask him to tell you about it, he will show you just exactly what it is that makes that job so interesting to him.

I’m glad I went. I still can’t shake the mental image of phone company guys running surveillance while bowling.

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