I’ve been in a lot of a lot of tight spots while urban exploring. One question I always get asked is, do you run from police while exploring? What if you get caught?
The short answer is no, you probably shouldn’t run from the police. In most cases security or whoever it is will take down your name, and tell you to leave the area. At the end of the day this is totally up to you. I have a few personal rules that I follow to determine if I’m going to run or not.
Let me explain..
I would say, 90% of the time when exploring I don’t get caught by anyone. If you did your planning correctly, no one should have seen you enter the location. In that unlucky 10% of the time I do get caught or approached it usually isn’t a big deal. I won’t run, I’ll be calm, compliment and respectful and explain that I’m just taking photos.
For most people, this is enough they tell you to leave and it’s over. Sometimes they get super interested and invite me to continue taking pictures.
However there are a few considerations I would account for before just turning myself over…
Trespassing On Government Owned Land
Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
I’ll start by saying, I’m not a lawyer…. Or a doctor.
However, I do know a bit about trespassing laws in the United States. In the states, if you get caught on federally owned land, it’s usually right to jail or a trespassing charge straight away.
Why is this?
When police or security arrive on the scene their first job is to find you, and understand why you’re there and if you belong. If it’s private property, they will try to contact the owner to let them know what has happened, and if they want to press charges. Usually the owner will ask what they were doing there, and if anything was stolen or broken and then make a choice.
If the facility or land is owned by a government, either local or federal that determination is usually defaulted to press charges.
So basically, if I’m on government owned land I’ll definitely consider running.
Is This Place A Trap?
We all know or those super hot locations where anyone who gets caught there, gets arrested. Unfortunately, these can be some of the most exciting and rewarding places to explore. I remember exploring the Six Flag amusement park in New Orleans years ago with a group of friends, and security was very tight.
We barely made it out and were told later by security who apprehended us outside the park that they arrest an average of 5 people a week for trespassing.
Before going, I knew this place had a reputation for zero leniency. I had planned multiple ways out of the park if we thought we were going to get caught, because at that point I didn’t have much to lose.
Who Are Your Going To Run From?
This is a big one.
Who or what is trying to stop you?
In the United States running from a police officer complicates things dramatically. What could have started off as a warning, or a trespassing ticket, has now escalated to trespassing, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer if you accidentally (or purposely) hit them while trying to flee.
If I can determine that an actual police officer (not a security guard) is trying to stop me. I’m going to stop, plain and simple. It’s over. At that point in my mind it’s best to be honest about what you’re doing, and cooperative.
However if you were to outrun a cop, chances are you won’t outrun his radio. He’ll have backup on the scene in minutes. They will also have no idea why you’re running, and they will assume the worst. They don’t know what’s in your backpack, and tripods could look like weapons from a distance..
If it’s a cop, just stop. (Haha I made a rhyme)
Now if its a property owner, random nosy neighbor, or security guard I might run.
But that’s not my first reaction.
If they’re close enough to me where running isn’t easier, I’ll walk over and explain what I’m doing. I’ll stay more than an arm’s length away while being calm and friendly. If they ask me to leave, I leave.
Now if the conversation starts to take a turn where they want to get the police involved, detain me, or take my equipment, well then I hope they have their running shoes on…
Who Are You Leaving Behind?
Nowadays, I don’t explore alone often. Before you take off consider who you’re leaving behind.
Would they give up your name?
Are you comfortable with them taking the fall?
Do you think they can follow your lead and keep up with you?
Who’s the one driving?
If you’re in a group and one of you runs, chances are whoever is left is not going to be let off lightly. Even if whoever caught you was just going to give you a warning, now that one of your friends ran off that indicates you’re guilty of something.
Take those factors into consideration.
If I know I’m going to run from a place, I’ll let everyone know ahead of time so they can decide what they want to do in case that does happen.
Do You Have A Plan?
Anytime you do a big explore, you should have a plan. Hell, I think the second best part of exploring is actually the process of planning.
If you choose to run, know where you’re going and be familiar with your surroundings.
You don’t want to run from a some soccer mom only to tear yourself up through a dozen thorn bushes and wind up in a lake.
(No offense if there are any soccer mom’s here by the way. We love you.)
Just do your due diligence. Know the area, know where you’re entering and if possible have more than one way out preferably on the other side of the property.
What Are The Odds?
If you’re going to run, you better have a good reason and be confident you’re going to get away.
Always consider your odds. Take everything above into account and make a decision.
You might be able to outrun that cop, but can you outrun his dog?
How round is that security man?
Are you wearing boots or shoes?
How fast can you scale a fence.
Weight your options, and use your head. And like I said in the beginning if you did your homework you shouldn’t get caught.