You have the right to remain….geocaching!
Raise your hand if, like me, you’ve met up with a friendly police officer while geocaching. Like the time I returned to my car to find an officer waiting for me after I searched for a cache near a baseball field. You can’t blame the officer for wondering what I was doing at a baseball field…after dark…in winter!
At Geocaching HQ, we strive to work with law enforcement agencies to enhance the awareness, understanding and enjoyment of geocaching. We offer law enforcement representatives complimentary and ongoing Premium Membership for the purpose of monitoring geocaching activity in their jurisdictions.That’s why we were thrilled to hear about a new geocaching initiative in Portland, Ore. The Portland Police Bureau recently hosted a coin challenge to introduce six new geocaches at Bureau locations throughout the city.
The geocaching program is the latest community outreach brainchild of the PPB’s Sgt. Hank Hays. He worked to place the caches and make his fellow officers aware of them. “The idea for the program came from a desire to connect with the community around common interests,” Sgt. Hays says. “And then as we get to know each other, and the trust level builds, then we’re able to talk about some of the more complex community issues.”
The inaugural event offered cachers the opportunity to chat with police officers and learn more about how to make sure geocaching doesn’t cause undue stress for law enforcement. If you see an officer while you’re out caching (say, at a dark baseball field in winter), Sgt. Hays suggests initiating a conversation rather than waiting for the officer to approach you. “That’s gonna make the officer’s suspicion level go down,” Sgt. Hays says. “Because then the officer will think ,’OK they don’t mind talking to me. There’s something (geocaching) going on and maybe I don’t get it. But maybe I’m not as suspicious as I was.” Sgt. Hays also suggests making sure the officer can see your hands. “Officer safety is a big thing. We want to make sure we’re safe. We want to make sure the people we’re interacting with are safe. So being able to see your hands is a big part of that.”
Geocaches can unwittingly cause suspicion due to their appearance and/or location. Sgt. Hays reiterated HQ’s longstanding guidance to label your geocache container. He also stresses that a clear plastic container can go a long way towards reassuring officers who may stumble upon a cache. “I know people like to camouflage their caches, and I’ve seen some very unique caches in the little bit of time I’ve been doing this. Huge points for ingenuity and creativity! But if it’s clear plastic and we can see the contents of it, and it has the geocaching logo on it, then it’s pretty easy for us to know it’s not something we need to be worried about.”
The Portland Police Bureau hopes to host at least a few geocaching events each year. Do you know of a law enforcement agency that’s gotten involved with geocaching? We’d love to hear about it!
(Note: If you’re a Law Enforcement representative or Parks Personnel we offer a complimentary and ongoing Premium Membership for the purpose of monitoring geocaching activity in your jurisdiction. Learn more here at the Law Enforcement & Parks Professional resource page. Simply create a free basic account on Geocaching.com, choose a username that reflects your organization, and email us at geocaching.com/help for your upgrade.)