A body. An arrest on a theft charge. A report of a stolen picnic basket, including desserts and flatware inside, from a community beach.
These were among the calls on which residents tagged along with officers in the county Police Department's Eastern District, getting a peek at what police do on patrol in their neighborhoods.
And that didn't include all those traffic stops.
"Sometimes I think that all the cops do is drive up and down roads. I had no idea they drive by a car and they check the license plate," said Terry Pilgrom, president of the Stoneybrooke Village Association. "Or that, if they see something that they aren't sure about, they watch and wait. They don't just drive around."
When she told Officer Erick Patterson about her neighbors' concerns with people parking off a road, "drinking, whatever they're doing," they drove there so she could show him the spot.
Ride-alongs, as they're known, are a way for police to blend public relations with hearing the concerns of people in their patrol area.
"We want people to see what our officers do out here and what it's like to patrol your community," Capt. David Waltemeyer, the Eastern District commander, said as a dozen area residents waited to be paired with officers for an eight-hour afternoon-evening shift on a recent Friday.
"This is an opportunity for you to bring that information back to your community. For our officers, rarely do they get to sit with the members of the community they patrol and hear what they have to say," Waltemeyer said. He said the Eastern is the only Anne Arundel police district offering a community ride-along.
Residents, some of them members of the Police Community Relations Council, said they were surprised at what police dealt with in a single shift. The Eastern District includes about 160,000 people living in 80 square miles that stretch from the eastern waterfront north of Annapolis into Glen Burnie to the west.
It was a slow Friday night, with 118 calls in the district. Three officers were dispatched elsewhere because a barricade situation was tying up Northern District officers, and a preliminary investigation into a death was occupying officers at the other end of the county.
An early call was a request to check on an ailing, elderly man who lived alone in Pasadena and who hadn't been heard from in nearly a week. Officers struggled to budge the door after unlocking it using a key from a ring left in the man's car.
"When officers began pushing it open and trash started falling out, I said, 'I think I'll stand back here,'" Pilgrom said. Later, she said she didn't think she'd have had the stomach to deal with what was inside.
The first floor was hip-high in debris. The owner had died upstairs.
As a reporter on a ride-along with Detective Brian Carney, I was in the third car to arrive at the scene. By then, officers had emerged from the home and had been in touch with the dead man's physician. Soon, officers were listening to his friends and a relative reminisce about the man as they waited for a funeral home car to arrive. From the call to removal of the body, which took four people, more than three hours passed.
Soon after, a dozen units were looking for a car whose occupant was suspected of having stolen a gun from a home.
The car was quickly spotted and pulled over on Lake Shore Drive. A man was handcuffed. Officers confiscated a rifle, and everyone in the car was patted down. There may have been a new open warrant for a minor charge on one of them, but it could not be tracked down late in the day.
Later on, as Carney drove through an apartment complex lot, he stopped to warn a man schmoozing with a friend to keep his beer bottle out of sight. It was, he said, at his discretion not to charge him with an open-container violation. In contrast, a teenager driving without headlights — but with four friends packed into his truck, and nobody wearing a seat belt — got two seat belt tickets, as he'd been stopped twice before for seat belt violations, and a warning about the headlights.
"What's the lesson we're going to learn today?" Carney asked the group, telling them that if they were in a wreck, they would crash head-first through the windshield.
People who went on the ride-along noted police efforts to be diplomatic in handling tense disputes, and surprise at officers' multitasking.
Buck Brown, who represents the Severna Park Council on the police liaison panel, said he knew some of that before the ride-along, but seeing officers deal with domestic disputes and argumentative recipients of traffic tickets was different.
"It puts me in a better situation to inform people," he said.
Ron Renoff of Arundel Beach responded with Cpl. Robert Lingner Jr. to reports in which the information given to dispatchers turned out to be incorrect — in one, a caller reported an issue at a gas station, but no gas station existed where the caller said. Still, Renoff said, they tried to pursue it.
Suzy Murphy took the day off from her job as a planning administrator in the county's zoning division for a ride-along with Cpl. Brian Houseman.
"Driving a car, watching out for violations, monitoring the computer and listening to the radio, he was doing all that," she said. "And we're not allowed to text!"
They did mostly traffic stops — but, she said, she'd have missed two of them. She didn't spot one vehicle's registration sticker in the window instead of on the license plate.
The other didn't strike her as unusual: "One individual he pulled over, I said, 'What did he do? I didn't see anything.' He only got a warning, but he pulled up onto the lawn to get around a vehicle to make his turn. I see that all the time."