Crime Wave: And Police Don't Want Pictures

Old Lake Highlands Suffers Rash of BurglariesEXCLUSIVE: 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.

Dallas.Org obtained a copy of Cindy's surveillance video (requires free Apple Quicktime player).

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.]

 


Editor's Note:

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?

Video Evidence

I examine video evidence for a living. This isn't bad. In fact, it is better than most I've looked at. If you could have gotten the media to play it, chances are, someone would recognize the suspects. At the very least, a media release on the vehicle and stills of the suspects could be posted and circulated in the neighborhood.
I can related to having a caseload of 100 cases, but you can't look at it that way. 1 case with good leads can break a dozen cases. If the suspect sees himself at locations around the area, he'll at least move on to another area. If you can't catch him, then at least make him someone else's problem.

I've seen many other Dallas detectives work very hard with a lot less information and leads to make a case when frankly, they were grasping at straws because that was the job.

It's easy to forget that because you can't see a license plate or identify a face that there are other parts of the video that are useful.

Send that video to the sergeant over that unit and make some stills and get them distributed in the neighborhood with a decent reward.

[Ed Note: Too late... they've decided they aren't going to be able to identify the people so "case closed" unfortunately.]

From Minot, ND

I live in Minot ND.

I sold a car on payments to a fellow from Dallas who was working up here. He took off before paying in full.

After getting in an accident with the car he gave my name as his.

Later he received a speeding ticket and again gave my name as his.

I have received several warnings that I need to pay that ticket even though the State of ND has sent proof I sold the car to this fellow.

I have given the police his NAME, ADDRESS, SS# and more BUT because there are 2 people in the Dallas area with this name they say they do not know which one it is and will not do anything about it.

To bad the gal with the video didn't have a gun.

It sounds like the only way you can get justice in Dallas. I get a car stolen, harassed for a fine I don't owe, blamed for an accident in a state I've never been in before and all your law enforcement is concerned about is the fine I didn't earn.

Oh ya, I'm real eager to visit Texas some time soon, right.

[Ed Note: You know, I'd like to know which Texas jurisdiction stopped this "fellow" and, apparently, didn't require him to show a driver's license (just took him at his word that his name was yours).

As far as the accident goes, you might throw $100 at a lawyer and get him to help you work up an affidavit that you can send to each of these folks, along with a copy of the vehicle's title.

If you didn't change the title, and the guy never paid, you might ask your lawyer the question: "who owns the car?"

Automobile theft is a felony in Texas.

Have fun up there in Minot! Thanks for writing!]

Unless You Already Know Who It Is

If you're investigating a crime, why wouldn't you want photos of the criminals involved?

The only reason I can think of is that you already know who they are.

If this isn't an indication of some dirty cops, I don't know what to make of it.

This is exactly the kind of thing that David Kunkle has been working hard to clean up.

2 cents,

RC

Keith Rosa: Credit to the Badge

I have spent most of the past 20 years as a property manager in Dallas, specializing in cleaning up problem properties, many of which had significant crime problems for me to address. I've worked all over Dallas, but half the properties I've worked have been in the area covered by the Northeast Division of the Dallas Police Department. I have been successful in significantly reducing crime on every property I've worked. That would not have been possible without the help of law enforcement, and I have worked with people in just about every agency from the DPD up to and including the FBI.

I will say without hesitation and without a doubt, Keith Rosa has been the most helpful and most effective member of law enforcement it has been my experience to work with during my entire career. He's one of the good guys.
I don't know what happened in this particular case, but I do know that Keith Rosa is a credit to the badge.
It's a shame that more resources aren't allocated to address that workload, but if you needed someone to try and deal with such a situation, Keith Rosa is the type of person you're thankful to have.

Home Cameras - Where To Get?

Thank you for posting this video! That woman is lucky she wasn't raped.

Now, could you have a public meeting on how we can get these cameras for our house, because if you go to a store, how would you know what to get?

Maybe if more videos start popping up, these guys --or other thieves--will get caught. The DPD must look at this.

Oh, and if the thieves are reading this, good. Be warned, if I see you on MY property, I have a shotgun surprise for you.

[Ed Note: You know... I have been thinking, casually, for quite some time about sponsoring a home security technology forum. Maybe this is more apropos now? Thoughts?]

Video Surveillance Forum

Excellent Idea!

You could even talk to the end users of the video, the police and courts. It has been my experience that the installers and sellers of these systems know so little that the shouldn't be allowed to even be in the business.

Sometimes the systems aren't even in English or Spanish, the resolution is so poor that you couldn't identify your own mother ten feet from the camera because the recorded information is extremely compressed. And to make matters worse, you can record video, but neither the owner or the police can figure out how to get it off of the digital recorder and when you call tech support, there isn't anyone there because it was invented by 3 guys in a shed in some third world country.

Surprise. That could explain the $199 sales price for the complete system.

Streaming video is recorded at 168MB per second. If you expect to record 90 days of video to a 30GB hard drive, then don't be surprised that it's so compressed as to be unusable to anyone except as an example of what not to buy.

Check this out: http://www.gobroomecounty.com/dpw/DPWSecTraining.php

[Ed Note: This comment was posted by a very respectable law enforcement entity. And yeah, I sort-of dropped the ball on this. I think it needs to be picked back up after the first of the year. Would you guys help?]

Forum invitation

Okay, the previous poster lost me... it sounded like English...

Which is the problem for the Average Joe/Jane out here in Dallas. I would like a decent camera system, not to look like Ft Knox, but to let me know who comes around and when--when I am not home.

I have an offer for you Allen. I can mention it to you offline. A homeowner's group--if you can simplify what to get and how to use it.

[Ed Note: OK, I'll take an "F" on the assignment :) But better late than never, I'll try to work on something tomorrow.]

This Video Is...

The video shown above is useless for evidentiary purposes. It's too pixelated to be of any service in identifying the suspects. The only two facts drawn from this video are that the suspects are a white male and a dark complected male (can't be certain from the video that the suspect isn't wearing a long-sleeve shirt with gloves, again due to pixelation.)

If you're going to put video in for "security" purposes, remember this: The item you want to exhibit as evidence needs to be no smaller than a quarter on the screen. Digital is great for storage purposes, but once the image is captured, you cannot do anything with it. All of the TV/movies garbage about "enhancing" digital images is total b.s.

  • Carefully research your system.
  • Demand a demonstration prior to paying for anything.
  • Double check that your video images are actually stored at the same quality as they are displayed on the screen (i.e., check your compression rates).
  • You can't have too many cameras.

There are lots of great systems out there, but they are expensive. If you can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the video clearly shows the evidence you need for a conviction, you've wasted your time and money.

[Ed Note: Excellent suggestions. However, my experience is that there are no such things as "absolutes" when dealing with evidence. Further, this story is not about whether or not the video was too pixelated to be used as evidence, it is about procedures that prevented the video from even being reviewed.]

OLHA Crime meeting

I've lived in OLHA since the early '90s and until recently had never felt compelled to arm our home. That was then; this is now. I doubt the howling of our new burglar alarm will make much difference to a determined set of thieves. But if it slows them down by a few minutes that's better than having them feel comfortable enough to grab a beer and put their feet up while they're here.

The fact that we have a couple of sinister-sounding canines -with full access via their dog door- can't hurt, either. We truly believe the latter may be the ONLY reason our home has remained burglary-free up to now. No one in their right mind (sans a weapon to stop the dogs in their tracks) would want to climb over our backyard fence with the intention of entering our home. Front, maybe. Hence the recent installation of a burglary alarm.

Police officers cannot be everywhere. Like any other civil servant, they're human beings with personal lives and are doing their level best to make a difference, given whatever resources they have. It's no secret their resources are woefully inadequate to do the kind of job the citizens are requesting of them. Two decades ago this was not the case. But two decades ago most people - of all socio-economic levels - held a higher respect for their fellow man than many do in today's "entitlement" culture. Sorry if I've offended anyone under 70 with this statement, but I think you fully understand what I mean.

Still...some things defy logic. My guess is the overworked detectives have become immune to the enormity of their task. It takes time to drive over and view a video; fill out a report; meet with other colleagues; sort through a myriad array of files and systems (city, county, state, federal) to see if other burglary reports show a similar "MO." If fingerprints are lifted, these are easily traced - IF the perp has ever committed a crime wherein their fingerprints are on file! I venture to guess this must take days...weeks...months...and that's just to work ONE burglary. Add to this same set of tasks 100 or more burglary reports and you get the picture.
Something akin to impossible.

All the while senseless drive-bys, assaults, cold-blooded murder and drug deals go down around them. We have to set priorities. It's far more important to put the man hours into solving murders and drug deals than focusing on home burglaries where someone's property rights were violated. I akin this scenario we're living as a 'neighborhood triage.' Like in a war zone; where doctors and medical personnel are forced to decide who lives ...and who dies.

I'm not trying to make light of the sheer helplessness these homeowners feel. Nor sound morbid with the visual of a war zone mine field. As a neighborhood 'family' it's clearer now more than ever we have little choice but to set in motion actions to take back our neighborhood - by ourselves. The good news is this process has already begun by the mere fact 300 of us took the time to meet for several hours this week and acknowledge the magnitude of the problem. I believe we CAN accomplish this. If we don't get discouraged and stay true to forminig a group effort to 'watch each others' backs.' Never before has being a 'nosy busy-body' sounded more beautiful!

Car BreakIns

There is seldom someone who will call the police or wait to see who car been broke in.

I disagree that if a police officer is called and sent to check on a human being then he/she should go.

I have first hand experience that reporting a thief is useless unless you shoot them. I bet the police will come then!

If I see some one breaking in a car or home I will call the police and point them out if I can.

Lets not forget the a Police gets paid to help protect people because they made a vow.

Make God bless our laws because we need protection more now than we use too.

[Ed Note: The platinum question: have crime levels and departmental disorganization reduced our police department to a mediocre investigative agency and an ineffective deterrence tool?]