Sunday, October 24, 2010

Everday Tow Hero In L.A.

Here's the story from Studio City Patch:
Most regular people just doing their jobs would look the other way if they were driving through a rough part of town and spotted a crime being committed.

Israel Alvarez of North Hollywood, a tow truck driver with Archer's Towing, is not one of those people.

One day while driving, he spotted someone tagging a building and not only radioed his dispatch, but he got out and approached the suspect from behind.

"You better drop that can,"  Alvarez remembers telling the tagger.

Alvarez must really know how to deliver an intimidating line because he got the suspect to drop the can and sit on his knees until the police arrived.

The police were very thankful. As it turns out, according to the LAPD, the tagger had been vandalizing buildings in the neighborhood for months and causing hundreds of dollars of damage.

"'You didn't have to do it the way you did, but... thanks.'"Alvarez recalls the arresting officer telling him.

In September, the LAPD officially thanked Alvarez for doing it the way he did by giving him the North Hollywood Police Department's Citizenship Award. But it wasn't just for his help catching the tagger. That was just the beginning.

There was the time when Alvarez was working the yard at Archer's and became suspicious about the demeanor of an individual whose vehicle was on the lot. Alvarez took a closer look inside, discovered a loose door panel and found that the car was loaded with drugs. He called the North Hollywood Police Department and they arrested the suspect, impounded the car and also impounded two others.

Alvarez doesn't have a good answer as to why he isn't more afraid of criminals.

"It didn't even dawn on me till afterwards. I'm not afraid. It goes with the job, actually." Alvarez said.

Running into criminals happens to Alvarez often, partly because Archer's Towing is the official police garage for the North Hollywood Police Department. Two years ago he helped out a county sheriff who did a traffic stop and found a loaded assault rifle and a pistol under the suspect's seat.

"I have the street knowledge," said Alvarez. "I lost an older brother and cousins to crime and drug sales."

At the annual PALS (Police Activity League Supporters) Awards in September,  Captain Justin Eisenberg of the North Hollywood Police credited Alvarez as "the person responsible for a large drug bust in the city of Los Angeles in 2009, and was responsible for catching a tagger this year who for the last 4 months had done hundreds of dollars of graffiti damages to properties around North Hollywood."

Alvarez started as the regular yard man six years ago and is now the yard and driver manager for Archer's towing. It might seem that Alvarez, 31, is destined for a future in law enforcement, but he can't enter the academy at the moment.

"Being a police officer has been a long dream of mine" said Alvarez. "Since I had to drop out of high school to help my mom and dad with the bills in my senior year. I just never got back to school."

Vicki Smith, the supervisor at Archer's Towing, told Patch that Alvarez is a model employee.

"Every time we turn around he's finding something in a car," said Smith "... Israel will even fix a toilet and it's not in his job description."

Alvarez is one of nine children and grew up in Hollywood. He credits his steely gumption toward criminals to his father.

"My dad had pushed me for better things, for all of us. He always taught us right from wrong."

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