Crime Wave: And Police Don't Want Pictures
EXCLUSIVE: But we want to see them! Dallas.Org obtains burglary video from one crime victim that police detectives wouldn't look at.
On the heels of the revelation that even revising reporting methods won't help soften Dallas' position as the most crime-ridden major city in America, has come a dramatic rise in residential burglaries in Northeast Dallas.
But could confusion and miscommunication be contributing to the Northeast Division's inability to get a handle on the situation?
About 300 residents and members of the Old Lake Highlands Neighborhood Association gathered at Lake Highlands Baptist Church on Wednesday.
Notably absent was Northeast Division Deputy Chief Jan Easterling. "She had a prior engagement," said Dallas Police Lieutenant Paul Thai who heads the Northeast Division's "ICP" unit. "This meeting was just called 2 days ago."
According to Doug Woodham, OLHNA's crime watch chief, the area has averaged 1.5 break-ins a week since May 15.
"Recently," according to Woodham, "there have been 2 break-ins in 1 day." Police, according to Woodham have "no solid leads."
"Burglaries are on the rise," remarked Lt. Thai. "We don't know if these [burglaries] are [being] done by the same guys [...] there's not much information."
Residents, however, say they've tried to provide descriptions of the suspects. One has tried to provide video. The description of the suspects is strikingly similar.
One resident provided a description of a vehicle, a "dark sedan" driven by two suspects: one white and one black. The resident said neighbors observed a "well-dressed man in a white polo shirt with a backpack [...] casing" the house prior to one burglary.
The thieves piled his belongings into a city-issued trash can--then came back later to return the container.
It was then that another homeowner, a woman with a background as a journalist and a former crime reporter, told a story about how her security cameras recorded two suspects driving a dark sedan stealing an air compressor from her garage.
The woman, whom we will call "Cindy," spoke to Dallas.Org on the condition of anonymity. She said detectives never came out and never seemed interested in viewing her video.
When she first placed her call to 9-1-1, after discovering the burglary, a young police officer came out and took a report. "He was all excited," said Cindy, "he called the video a 'workable lead'."
Detective Keith Rosa, however, didn't seem to share the officer's enthusiasm.
We confirmed that the detective never reviewed Cindy's video nor did he make a trip to her residence. According to Cindy, the detective called her on the phone and seemed "disinterested."
"[The detective told me that the] video doesn't really help," Cindy said, "he said 'we really need names'."
Cindy went on to explain that the detective complained about his workload. "He told me that there were over 300 burglaries [in the area] and they only have 3 detectives," she said.
According to Cindy, the detective told her: "there's no way each one can work 100 burglaries."
When Cindy invited the detective to view the tape, he declined--indicating that if she could make a copy, he would come pick it up.
It shows Cindy, working in her back driveway on a piece of art when she walks through her garage and back inside her house.
Minutes later, the video shows a dark 4-door sedan pull past the driveway. Two suspects, one a white male wearing an orange polo and khaki shorts, walks into the garage followed by a black male dressed in a black shirt and pants.
Shortly thereafter, the white male is seen exiting the garage with a piece of equipment, followed by the black male.
Dallas.Org has enhanced the video to show facial pictures of both suspects and the vehicle.
"What's scary is that I was just out there working," said Cindy. "I wonder what would have happened if I had walked in while they were still in my garage."
But other policies may be hampering police efforts to thwart crime.
"If you see a suspicious vehicle," Thai told the residents at Wednesday's meeting, "call 9-1-1."
However, a 9-1-1 operator told us last Spring, that policy prevented them from taking calls regarding unoccupied suspicious vehicles. Calls were only taken when a caller complained that a suspicious person was in the vehicle.
We confirmed this with Dallas Police Sergeant Brenda Simonton. "I asked [the dispatch center] what would cause police not to come out [on a suspicious vehicle]," Simonton informed us.
The dispatch center told Simonton it wouldn't dispatch on a vehicle that had just appeared recently--but was unoccupied.
"They told me: 'like if the vehicle arrived 3 minutes ago'," Simonton explained.
This policy (or "procedure") would seem to hamper police in cases where vehicles were parked while the occupants were busy burglarizing nearby houses.
Sgt. Simonton pointed out that the Dallas Fire Department, and not the police, operates the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
"[The policy or procedure not to dispatch police to check out suspicious vehicles] is certainly something that needs [to be looked into] and be clarified," said Simonton.
The Lake Highlands crime wave was part of a story covered by NBC5i's Nigel Wheeler.
Rather than responding to the increasing numbers, Lt. Thai took issue with Channel 5. Thai said that NBC's figures, 20 burglaries since June, covered 4 "reporting areas" as opposed to one.
However, if you are a resident of one of the 20 burglarized homes, the reporting areas are probably the last thing to be concerned about.
[We attempted, unsuccessfully, to reach Detective Rosa through the Dallas Police Public Information Office. Also, do you have a similar story or a video? Contact us here.]
No police officer wants crime to flourish. Most have devoted their lives to stopping it. However, it's difficult to gauge when situations are devolving to the point of being counterproductive--and individual officers' efforts may be battling themselves.
Until this interview, I had assumed that if someone had video (I have surveillance cameras, too, which monitor my house and nearby streets) of a crime being committed, police would find this to be a valuable resource and would be 'jumping all over it.'
But apparently not.
I can also understand how three detectives would get frustrated with a 300+ active case load.
But the flip side is: if "workable leads" were followed, how many of those 300 cases could be cleared at once?
This all leads to the question of whether senior management is aware or is providing the resources necessary to "get a handle" on these situations?
For instance, one thing that struck me as interesting was the lack of senior management's presence at a 300-person gathering to discuss a wave of burglaries--especially burglaries where the suspects seemed willing to enter someone's house in broad daylight.
Were I the deputy chief of the Division, someone would have to restrain me to keep me out of such a meeting--especially if the meeting was an "emergency meeting" called at the last minute.
Further, I wouldn't ignore obvious productivity-limiting issues such as 300 cases managed by 3 people (assuming the detective isn't just making this up).
But, hey, maybe that's why I'm not a deputy chief!
One thing is for certain: homeowners suffering from a rash of burglaries can't be an acceptable situation. Can it?