Badge of Honor goes to GPD investigator

GUILDERLAND — Thomas Funk had the day off from work last Wednesday but went in anyway because he thinks so much of his colleague, Investigator Charles Tanner III who was recognized with a District Attorney’s Badge of Honor Award.

Funk and Tanner have been colleagues for the better part of two decades. They are two of the three investigators for the Guilderland Police Department.

The third is Brian Leach, new this year; Leach likes computers, said Funk. Each investigator has a specialty, said Funk, who, as the senior investigator, supervises the Criminal Investigation Unit. The unit handles an average of 500 cases per year, according to the police department’s 2012 annual report.

“I work on burglaries and sexual crimes,” Funk said, while Tanner specializes in financial crimes and issues pistol permits.

“He’s a very good employee, very thorough,” said Funk of Tanner’s 19-year career.

The investigators are plain-clothes cops; they don’t wear uniforms and prefer not to be pictured in the newspaper, said Funk; part of their job is to blend in. “We don’t like our photos spread around,” he said.

In 2012, the annual report says, the Criminal Investigation Unit processed 262 warrants and answered 231 calls for assistance. Fifty-nine background investigations were done and 58 pistol permits were issued.

Tanner’s work in issuing pistol permits also involves mental-health checks as well as fingerprint checks, said Funk.

“He speaks to neighbors and significant others,” said Funk, to gauge a potential pistol-owner’s stability. “It’s an in-depth process.”

According to the 2012 report, there were also 20 drug investigations, nine sexual assaults, five commercial burglaries, 38 residential burglaries, and eight robberies. There were seven bad-check investigations, 38 financial crimes, and 60 larcenies.

“Financial crimes are much more involved these days,” said Funk. For example, he said, a single identity theft can result in 20 different stores being affected.

“You’ve got a lot of work to do to put the case together,” he went on. “Sometimes, the victims aren’t in the state. Credit card numbers are passed on, even overseas. A victim can be here with their card used in California.”

District Attorney David Soares announced last week that counterfeit activity and identity theft have increased in the area significantly over the last few years.

“Identity theft is a common crime now,” said Funk, with credit cards and credit-card numbers being stolen frequently. “It can happen very easily.”

He gave as an example an often-used “skimming device.” The device, which is small and can be held in the hand, can be run over the magnetic strip at a store’s cash register to capture the information, he said; it’s then a simple matter to download the information on a laptop computer.

Funk also said that the area, with its large malls and easy access to highways, is attractive to counterfeiters because they can exchange fake bills for products or gift cards at many stores and then leave quickly.

“They like to wash them at the mall,” Funk said of counterfeit bills.

Some criminals also produce counterfeit business checks, he said, where they look up a legitimate business and print phony checks using that business’s name. They can make significant purchases or withdrawals before the fraud is detected.

Funk estimated that the Guilderland Police would investigate around 100 financial crimes this year. “There’s a lot at the mall,” he said. “It’s a favorite place for people to commit that type of crime.”

And, he said, “There’s always an increase in the Christmas season.” This is because the increased number of shoppers “allows for distractions,” Funk said.

Funk concluded of Tanner, “I’m proud of him for getting the award. He works hard. He’s thorough in all his cases….He’s always available and has a positive attitude.”

He went on, “We do a lot of cases together. Chuck has the honest face and innocent look. I’m a bigger guy — more intimidating.”

Do the investigators do the classic good cop-bad cop routine?

“Almost,” said Funk. “We’ve had many confessions.”

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