A prowler broke into Theresa Carr’s car Oct. 10 at her Lakewood home, stripping it of anything of value, including her wallet with $950 in rent money inside.
But the thief was sloppy. He or she used Carr’s credit card to buy food at a McDonald’s drive-thru and to pay off a $350 past-due Comcast bill.
So the 16-year Lakewood resident spent three days doing legwork, working with her credit card company and the businesses to see what she could do.
“They charged over $1,000 on my card in two hours,” Carr said. “I had time stamps of where they did it and when.”
The businesses told her that with a search warrant, they could turn over surveillance footage and the address of the account.
“All the police had to do was get warrants,” said Carr, 49.
Instead, she says, Lakewood police basically did nothing.
When she called to check on the status of the case a few weeks later, a police employee told her the department didn’t have the manpower to work on small property crimes.
“I didn’t even get a call that said, ‘I’m sorry, we didn’t have the time to work on this,’ ” Carr said. “I didn’t get anything. Nothing.”
Assistant Police Chief John Unfred didn’t dispute Carr’s account. Instead, he explained the department’s decision to not pursue the prospective prowler.
He said there were no signs of forced entry to Carr’s car, no surveillance video of the theft, and the thief left nothing behind identifying him or her, making it “next to impossible to solve.”
“We’ve got a couple hundred more victims with cases like that who’ve lost more money than she did,” Unfred said.
The time and effort to write up and pursue a search warrant was prohibitive for a theft in which Carr lost only her rent money, he said. The fraudulent credit card purchases were canceled.
The sergeant who assigns cases to detectives did some work on Carr’s case before declining to further pursue it, Unfred said.
The Comcast account would just be a lead, he added, nothing concrete that could lead to charges.
“I understand where she is coming from,” Unfred said. “Yes, that is a lead, but all these leads take more and more time in the grand scheme of things. The potential of getting an arrest or a conviction in this case are very low.
“We just don’t have the resources to follow up on it. It’s frustrating.”
Unfred compared property crimes to a fire hose, saying the larger number of them overwhelm detectives and prosecutors, and police prioritize those with the “greatest impact.”
“We have to triage,” he said. “Everybody’s got an injury. We just have to pick the most serious ones.”
Carr says she understands that police are busy with property crimes, but thinks her case could have been solved with a little more effort.
“I think they just dropped the ball on this one,” she said.