Last week, Mayor Michael Hancock was at the CELL to announce the expansion of Transportation on Patrol, a program that empowers Denver's cabbies, limo drivers, truckers and even pedal-cab operators to alert law enforcement of suspicious behavior. Days later, a taxi driver reportedly called the cops because a supposed gun dealer seemed like a potential terrorist. But now it looks like last weekend's Fox31 story on the incident misfired, and there could be plenty of collateral damage.
Saturday's Fox31 piece reported that Daniele Perazzi, president of the Italian gun manufacturer and the grandson of its founder, had come to town for the Colorado Gun Collectors Association show at the Merchandise Mart, bringing seven expensive guns with him, when a cab driver called the cops, alerting them that the man might be a terrorist. Perazzi was said to have been detained by law enforcement, then released -- but he left the country taking some very, very bad feelings about America with him.
A screen capture from the Fox31 report.
And the bad feelings continued in this country, with TOP -- founded by former Denver Police Department officer Larry Stevenson in 2011 -- taking some hits for being overly aggressive with gun owners who feel they're being targeted, and other media outlets questioned about why they weren't following the story.
9News did. And yesterday, after noting on-air "that it is exceedingly rare" for one media outlet to fact-check another, the station reported serious problems with the Fox31 story. According to the Adams County Sheriff's Office, the Colorado Gun Collectors Association, TOP and even Perazzi, the story was a hoax.
Yesterday Perazzi company issued a statement saying that the "Perazzi grandson" identified in the story does not exist, and that the company did not even have a representative in Denver last weekend. Here's the release (translated, and not well, by Google) that Perazzi SPA posted on its website:
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE by Perazzi SPA
With regard to reports in the American press, in relation to an alleged arrest for "terrorism" by Daniele Perazzi (founder of Perazzi Armi SpA), we point out that the news is completely devoid of any foundation.
Daniele Perazzi is however, unfortunately, failed to live for about a year.
Even his son, Mauro, was last Saturday in the USA.
As reported in the press is absolutely false.
The company Perazzi, however, contrary to what is written, is familiar with the American legislation on weapons because of his extensive and well-known activities of marketing its products in the USA.
Since it is difficult to think of simple error, it is believed that someone who has interests contrary to those of the Perazzi SpA, may have spread false and misleading information purposes only defamatory.
The company has already instructed his lawyers to take the most appropriate actions, civil and criminal, in order to protect the brand represented and its activity, carried on the American market.
Perazzi Armi SpA
No one is more puzzled by this strange story than Larry Stevenson, an eleven-year veteran of the DPD who was working in the taxi industry when he started Taxis on Patrol.
Larry Stevenson, as seen in footage used in the Fox31 report.
TOP has now taken off around the globe, and changed its name to Transportation on Patrol to reflect how it has expanded far beyond cab drivers here in Denver. Truckers, even pedal-cab drivers are getting training in how to identify suspicious behavior. Stevenson now operates TOP from a small office in the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, which oversees cabbie licenses.
Fox31 used old footage of Stevenson in its report, although there was lots of glowing coverage of last week's CELL event, touting a program that looked like a definite hit. But now it's Stevenson who's taking flak.
Stevenson will be on Peter Boyles's KHOW show during the seven o'clock hour to talk about his program -- and the really suspicious behavior involved in this story.
Here's the description of Transportation on Patrol released last week:
"A Mobile Neighborhood Watch"
Taxis on Patrol: January 2011, Denver Police announced a collaborative effort with taxi drivers to alert law enforcement of any suspicious activity they see while working their routes in the city. Since its January 2011 kickoff in the Denver Metro area, Taxis on Patrol (T.O.P.) volunteers have called in over hundreds of suspicious incidents and crimes in progress ranging from hit & runs, homicide, sexual assault, robbery, disturbances, drunk drivers, shootings, domestic violence situations, car-jacking, people with weapons etc. Through the continued efforts of Metro area taxi drivers, Taxis on Patrol is continuing to gain the interest of both transportation operators and law enforcement nationally and internationally.
The TOP program in Q1 of 2013 expanded to include Pedal Cabs, Limos, Shuttles, and Truckers.
Internationally Taxis on Patrol is being implemented in places such as: Melbourne Australia, Johannesburg S. Africa, London England, Paris France and Okinawa Japan
• Program call stats for 2001- 2012 - Metropolitan area Taxi drivers called in approx 1574 which resulted in approx. 68% of successful arrest and or protection of Life and property
• Taxis on Patrol has been implemented in over 30 U.S. Cities and will have over 10,000 trained drivers in the United States by Q4 2013.
• Local community partners include: Metro-Denver Crime Stoppers, Trucker Against Trafficking, Jefferson County DA's Office, Denver DA's Office, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Downtown Business Partnership, The CELL, ICE, Denver Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security...
On 5-14-2-13 Transportation on Patrol (Denver) has expanded to include Taxi, limousine, peddle cab and trucking professionals. Along with the expansion of the program, the training the drivers receive is also taking a "deeper dive" to include the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab's (CELL) 8 signs of terrorism training.
The TOP program has grown substantially since its January 2011 inception, and has picked up key community partnerships and law enforcement support locally nationally and internationally. Having started with just the Denver Police Department as the pilot; TOP now works with over 35 local law enforcement agencies and in 2012 nationally/internationally transportation on patrol worked with over 250 law enforcement agencies to ensure that our collective communities are a safer place to live, work and play. Some of the other interesting Law enforcement agencies that have sought the Denver model of TOP for implantation are agencies in Surrey England, Melbourne Australia, Okinawa Japan, Johannesburg South Africa, and the Royal Military Police of the United Kingdom in conjunction with their community liaison and crime reduction programs.
Today is a day of firsts for TOP Denver as we are the first city to put peddle cabs on patrol, we are the first to put limos on patrol, we are the first to put truckers back on patrol and all this has happened since January of this year with hundreds of extra eyes and ears for the police to help them protect our street.
TOP was created as a "see something, say something" program in which Taxi drivers act as extra eyes and ears for the police and call in crimes, incidents, suspicious people and things in which they have gone through intense training to be good witnesses and know how to report while remaining safe and without getting involved. In keeping with the "SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING" model of Department of Homeland Security; TOP and The CELL have formed the first of its kind partnership in the US, in which Transportation professionals of taxi, peddle cabs, limos and the trucking industry are going through the combined TOP & CELL Community Awareness Program training to be able to recognize the 8 signs of terrorism and report what they see!
Here's the 9News report. It notes that Fox31 didn't respond to queries -- and its story about the arrest remains online at this writing with no correction.
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