Sometimes, it's not a cop.
That's a painful lesson learned by a man who was pulled over by what appeared to be an unmarked police SUV on I-55 near Litchfield late Tuesday night. Instead of getting a ticket, he was robbed at gunpoint by three men wearing ski masks. His assailants then tied him up and left him in his car along the Interstate.
The incident has left many worrying that they may find themselves victims of a similar ruse.
"This is WAY to closer for comfort," one person wrote on 1470 & 100.3 WMBD's Facebook page. "Scary stuff," another commented.
So, how can you tell whether those flashing red and blue lights on the road belong to an actual police officer?
"You really don't know," said interim Peoria Police Chief Jerry Mitchell.
Mitchell says there are ways to protect yourself, though. He says if someone tries to pull you over, you don't have to stop immediately if the situation seems suspicious.
"What we're asking people to do is to acknowledge that you see the officer behind you, and then just proceed slowly to a well-lit parking lot or to an area you feel more comfortable in," Mitchell said.
He says there are a few ways to send the message that you are not trying to lead a cop on a chase. You can wave your hand out the window, tap on the brakes a few times, or simply slow down. Mitchell says law enforcement is trained to recognize those signs, and will just continue to follow you until you pull over.
If you can't find a secure place to stop, or if you believe you are in danger, Mitchell says you can always call 911 to verify that it's actually a cop trying to stop you.