April 25, 2000 05:24am
Hooker Flees in Police Van
by: Seamus McGraw
(NEW YORK, NY) -- Two New York City vice officers were left red-faced on a Manhattan street corner early this morning when an accused prostitute sped off in their unmarked van - taking a duffel bag filled with 25 hollow-point bullets and a Kevlar vest with her when she fled.
The woman, identified as Tacoma Hopps, 35, was arrested about an hour after her escape, when police in nearby Secaucus, N.J., spotted her walking - barefoot and carrying the bag of bullets - along Route 3, a busy northern New Jersey highway, authorities said.
She had slipped out of her handcuffs and stuffed them inside the stolen bag, said Detective Lt. John Buckley of the Secaucus Police Department.
Hopps' brief bid for freedom began at 2:35 a.m. when undercover New York City vice officers arrested her near the corner of West 49th Street and 10th Avenue, Detective Madelyn Galindo said. Hopps had allegedly offered sex for cash to one of the officers, Galindo said.
'Not supposed to be left alone'
The officers hauled her into the van, cuffed her hands behind her and then headed off to pick up another accused prostitute who had been arrested nearby, Galindo said.
That was a serious error in judgment, Galindo said.
Under department regulations, one of the officers should have remained behind with Hopps, who has a record of more than 100 prostitution arrests in New York and is also wanted by authorities in Georgia for violating her probation, Galindo said.
"They're not supposed to be left alone. It's a departmental guideline," Galindo said, adding that it was not immediately clear whether the two officers would be disciplined.
While the two officers were busy, Hopps slipped the handcuffs in front of her, then sped off in the police van, Galindo said. The embarrassed New York police officers broadcast a bulletin about her escape.
By that point, Hopps was headed across the Hudson River.
Charged with escape, auto theft
Hopps abandoned the van at a Secaucus strip mall and started off on foot, walking back toward New York, Buckley said.
Hopps had gone only a short distance before she caught the eye of a passing Secaucus police officer. The officer stopped, questioned the woman and took her into custody, Buckley said.
Hopps remained in the Hudson County Jail in Jersey City, N.J., Buckley said.
New York City authorities have charged her with escape, auto theft and prostitution, Galindo said.
Hopps faces a raft of charges in New Jersey as well. She is charged with unlawful possession of hollow-point bullets and receiving stolen property. She is also charged with "possessing handcuffs under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful use," Buckley said.