The police (also known as cops or pigs) are present in all Grand Theft Auto games.
- For the Police cars (in all games), see Police Car
The role of the Police in-game is to make crime difficult for the player - and to provide a reliable enemy and a challenge in many missions. This theme is present throughout the entire series, although the exact details vary between games.
The Police work upon a system of Wanted Stars. If the player is noticed performing a crime (ranging from crashing into a Police car to holding up shops) he may gain a Wanted Star, bringing his Wanted Level to one of six. With a Wanted Level of one, any passing Cop will chase the player and attempt to arrest (or kill) him. With more serious crimes, higher Wanted Levels are issued, and different levels of Law Enforcement will join the pursuit, such as a Police helicopter, the FBI and the Army.
If the player gets arrested by the police, there is no trial; the player loses some money and all of his weapons upon release from the nearest Police Station. Higher levels of law enforcement are not concerned with arrest, but with terminating the player. Death is only temporary, and results in being returned to a nearby hospital with the loss of weapons and some money. In GTA Vice City Stories, however, you can get your weapons back by paying a $2000 bribe to the police or hospital.
What the Police Won't Arrest You For
The following offenses are ones which would usually result in police intervention in the real world, but do not in the GTA series. Bear in mind that the presence of police can affect detection, and that wanted levels may be decreased through various methods.
- Trespassing on private property (residential or otherwise) - it is considered compulsory in Grand Theft Auto III to collect all the hidden packages.
- Indecent exposure (cops don't care if Carl strips down to his briefs in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas).
- Speeding and other traffic offences such as running red lights, crashing into random cars, travelling on the wrong side of the road, and mis-parking.
- Evading cops and resisting arrest (in fact a 1-star wanted level disappears over time if not provoked). Note: in Grand Theft Auto IV, pretending to surrender and then running away will increase a 1-star rating to a 2.
- Damaging property (such as blowing up gas pumps) unless killing people in the process.
- Flying a plane or helicopter too low.
- Using illegally-earned money to purchase a business or a house to save your game in.
- Jumping on other people's cars and riding on top of their roofs (police cars included, except for Grand Theft Auto IV). However, attacking cars is an offence.
- Posing as a taxi driver, ambulance driver, or firefighter and/or doing such missions.
- Posing as a police officer and driving a police vehicle (unless stolen from garage).
- Carrying an unconcealed firearm/meleé weapon in public.
- Stealing a train (this is only possible in GTA 1 and GTA San Andreas).
- Damaging streetlights, traffic lights, or traffic signs.
- Driving in a vehicle that is damaged or without license plates.
- Driving agricultural vehicles on highways.
- Driving a tank.
- Ramming and destroying vehicles with a tank (except law enforcement vehicles, up to and including GTA III). In later games, blowing up cars by running into them will incur one or more stars.
- Driving on the railroad - In GTA Liberty City Stories, the cops don't catch the player even if the player is riding a PCJ-600 in the subway rails.
- Knocking cyclists off their bikes.
- Jumping off a building or a car at top speed.
- Brandishing katana, baseball bat, nightstick, or other tools unless the player harms other people.
- "Illegal roadblock", as defined in GTA Liberty City Stories's mission "The Shoreside Redemption".
What the Police Will arrest you for
- Beating a person with or without a melee weapon, even in self defence.
- Throwing things at people.
- Aiming a weapon at an officer.
- Carjacking with an officer in the vicinity.
- Running a pedestrian over with a vehicle.
- Shooting a firearm near an officer, even if doesn't harm anyone.
- Using a chainsaw near an officer, even if doesn't harm anyone.
- Hitting a police vehicle with another vehicle or by attacking it in any way.
- Attempting to carjack a police car (with or without occupants).
- Starting fires.
- Robbing houses (unless you don't get caught).
- Trespassing inside a police station. Applies to GTA: Vice City and later.
- Knocking off stores.
- Being spotted driving a vehicle with the alarm going off.
- Bumping into an Officer when making an arrest.
- Breaking through the tollbooth without paying.
- Spraying gang tags.
- Entering a police station with a weapon.
- Entering the police parking lot.
- Entering or flying over a restricted area, for example Area 69. Applies to GTA: San Andreas.
- Entering parts of the city which aren't unlocked. Applies to GTA: San Andreas.
- Killing a shopowner - If Toni kills the owner of Phil Cassidy's fully cocked gun shop in GTA Liberty City Stories, the player gets a wanted level of 1.
- Selling drugs - during the mission Distribution in GTA: Vice City you get 1 star per every four drugs sold.
- Smuggling drugs - the player occasionally gets 4 wanted stars in the Smuggling mission in GTA Vice City Stories. Similar thing happens in GTA Liberty City Stories when Toni smuggles drugs with Miguel in the mission "Contra-banned"
- Other missions - some of GTA's missions give the player 1~5 wanted levels: Note the fact that the player cannot get wanted level of 6 unless the player kills FBI agents.
- If you complete a mission with a wanted level of 5 or 6 stars, you will retain one star if there are FBI or Army officers nearby. Confirmed in GTA: Vice City.