Police Response Criticized in Auto Burglary Cases

Frustration and anger at one major Tyler car dealer after what they call a lack of police response.

Tyler Ford says some burglary comes with the territory, but after a rash of break-ins, they say police haven't given the crimes the attention they deserve.

"When you're in a car dealership with 400-700 cars in the lot, you're going to get them vandalized."

But Tyler Ford General Manager Dave Irwin says when it happens, police should come to the scene, to take a report, and check for fingerprints. Something he says hasn't happened on several occasions in the past four weeks.

"It's getting quite expensive on our cars, our customers and us."

Irwin says this all started on April 19th, with the burglary of three vehicles. At that time, officers showed up, lifted fingerprints, but couldn't make an ID. Then three days later, three more vehicles were hit.

"They came out and took prints the first time. The second time they said they'd come out and take the prints and never did."

Irwin says he doesn't know if there were prints to be taken. But that changed Monday. Three more Tyler Ford autos were vandalized, along with two cars belonging to customers were also hit. Irwin says a handprint was visible on one window, covered in early morning moisture.

"Third time on the prints they said there was dew on the window and it would dry off and they'd come back and they never came back."

Twice, he says, prints that might have been found and linked to the vandals were not taken. Nor did one show up when specifically requested. Irwin says a customer called him Monday to report she called the police Saturday night when she saw two Caucasian men jump a fence where those customers cars were kept. But that police didn't arrive quickly.

Irwin says crimes against property come with the territory. He says vandalism is not a victimless crime, and vandals on the loose end up costing us all.

Police Response

After KLTV started asking questions Monday morning, it took Tyler Police a full day to respond to Irwin's complaints. Police chief Gary Swindle says in some cases, the department made mistakes.

But he says the good news is an arrest is expected. Closing as many as 20 vandalism cases at several car dealerships. The key information came from the caller mentioned earlier who saw someone jump over this fence at Tyler Ford.

They called police and gave a license plate number. That has led to one of the alleged vandals. As for police response to that call, Chief Swindle says an officer was dispatched immediately, but had to assist another officer in a more urgent call.

Chief Swindle: "Initial officer was dispatched within a couple of minutes of the call. The officer on his way to the call was diverted to an assault,family disturbance situation."

Swindle also addresses Monday's discovery of a hand print on one of the vandalized vehicles and the failure of an officer to return to the scene. He says the early morning dew makes it impossible to dust for prints, but what happened later was a mistake.

Swindle: "We should have gone back and done it or that information should have been passed on to evening shift employee who could have gone over and made the follow up. Apparently we just dropped the ball. But we know who the [vandal] is and we'll be able to solve that case without that fingerprint."

Swindle says sometimes people make mistakes, and he always wants to know when citizens have problems that aren't being handled.

Morgan Palmer, reporting.