Criminal Interdiction Review

I recently picked up the book Criminal Interdiction by Steven Varnell.

I have been a huge proponent of criminal interdiction techniques for many years. The book, Tactics for Criminal Patrol, was the gold-standard for interdiction work, but it went out-of-print and some of the court guidelines have changed from when that book was written.

Varnell’s book was published in 2010, and while the author did not pen Tactics for Criminal Patrol, I hoped that Criminal Interdiction essentially picked up where TCP left off.

According to the book, Varnell is a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper with more than 29 years of service. For the vast majority of that time, he was assigned to the Patrol’s Contraband Interdiction Program. If anyone has the credibility to write a book on interdiction, it would seem Steven Varnell does.

Criminal Interdiction

Varnell’s book is based on the premise that virtually all criminal enterprise involves the use of motor vehicles. Whether it is a bank robber fleeing in a car, a burglar carrying his loot in a van or a drug smuggler moving cocaine in a tractor trailer, they are all using the streets and roadways to get around.

Criminal Interdiction BookIf most criminals are in vehicles for at least some portion of their crimes, then it stands to reason that traffic enforcement can be something much more than just writing tickets. If officers treat each traffic stop as a Terry Stop, which it is, instead of just an opportunity to write a violation, how many more criminals could be caught?

Varnell covers a number of topics including what kinds of violations officers should be watching for, recognizing the behaviors of drivers and occupants, vehicle searches, commercial vehicles, mobile drug labs and more.

Officer Safety

Varnell talks a lot about officer safety throughout the book, and for good reason. When searching for drugs, human traffickers, gun runners and other criminals, you are coming into contact with some of the most dangerous criminals you are likely to meet.

Additionally, you are working next to the road, where any 16 year old can get a license to drive a 2,500 pound car mere inches or feet from your position.

Varnell blends the criminal interdiction techniques with officer safety ideas throughout. No load of dope is ever worth a police officer’s life.


Varnell’s writing recounts the information to the reader as if you were sitting down having a cup of coffee and talking about police work. Some of the most important “training” I have gotten has been when I was sitting and talking with a veteran cop over a cup of coffee on a cold midnight shift. This book reads a bit like that.

Yes, there are a few more grammar mistakes than in some other books I have read. A ruthless editor could catch those mistakes and tighten up some of the chapters. However, the errors are minor and hardly a distraction from the author’s voice and information.

Final Thoughts

Criminal Interdiction is a solid primer for any police officer who wants to catch criminals moving themselves and contraband by motor vehicle. The techniques are not limited to rural officers working the Interstate: they work just as well for the city cop.

I felt that Varnell was holding back specific details in various points in the book that would have helped officers key in on criminal activity. However, I imagine this was done to prevent giving away too much information to the criminal enterprises that do read law enforcement training manuals for intel on how to better run their organizations. I can only imagine the internal debates that Varnell likely had when trying to decide what information to include, and what to exclude.

Do not despair if you feel some information is left out of the book. As it is, the book will get you started down the road of successful criminal interdiction work. Additionally, Varnell taught at the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training (MCTFT) in St. Petersburg, FL. Much of the MCTFT training is online and free, meaning you can take online classes and get additional information on interdiction work with the knowledge that these courses are restricted to law enforcement only.

Criminal Interdiction is clear and easy to understand. It offers a lot to the new officer and the veteran cop who wants to start reeling in the big fish. I recommend this book.

Ed. note:   Criminal Interdiction can be puchased on Amazon.  Tactics for Criminal Patrol is now back in print and being sold through  The book is just a reprint, and not an update.  It is still a solid book and highly recommended.

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Richard Johnson is a gun writer, police trainer and really bad joke teller. Check out his other writing on sites like Human Events, The Firearm Blog and Police & Security News.

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