On the Beat with Lt. Schoeppner

LT. SchoeppnerSome of you may have seen where I have recently posted on Facebook that an arrest had been made in the incident where the water tower on Lawrenceville Highway had been tagged by a graffiti artist. The water tower was one of several locations to be tagged by this person. Others include the backside of the Starbucks on Lawrenceville Highway, Freemason’s Square on Main Street and NETWorks in Downtown Tucker. This arrest now means that the case will be sent over to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Since prosecution will happen sometime down the road, I’m not going to go into the specific facts of the case or who is involved. What I would like to focus on is how this case was almost ended before it ever really got started. This is important because many of our cases, up to and including murder, run into the same problem: lack of witness cooperation.

The water tower case began back in December when there was a post on Tucker Town Talk about someone tagging an area behind the Starbucks. This post got a lot of attention. In fact, the day after the post appeared, our tagger returned and added “eat your Facebook” to the original tag. While this was going on, I had been contacted by a witness telling me about the tag on the water tower and even telling me who was responsible. Independent of this, I had been contacted by three other people. All three of these folks named the same person as my suspect. The problem was that all three of these witnesses were adamant about being anonymous. I tried my best to convince them otherwise, but we ultimately had to proceed without them.

What impact did this have on the case? Since there was only one witness, the magistrate judge took the somewhat unorthodox step of setting this case up for a hearing. At the end of the day, we had the hearing, the witness testified and the judge found them to be as credible as we did. However, if we had the support of those three additional witnesses, I don’t think the added drama of a hearing would have even happened.

This tagging case is just one small example of cases being put in jeopardy because witnesses either don’t come forward or don’t want to testify. The impact is that cases can go unsolved and justice can be denied to the victim. I understand that it is scary to involve yourself with criminal investigations, especially for serious crimes, but if the folks who see something don’t say something then it is a very real possibility that some cases will not have a favorable outcome.

– At the end of last year, several businesses in the City of Tucker were burglarized by a subject who would remove the glass from a window or drive-thru of the victims’ business. Once inside, he would use tools to cut open the safe. Some of the businesses include Starbucks, Marco’s Pizza and Chipotle. Two suspects were arrested for a similar crime in Dunwoody. Tucker Precinct detectives worked with Dunwoody P.D. and were able to charge these suspects for the Tucker burglaries, as well.

CHECKMATE – On January 23, we were notified about several checks being stolen from a business on North Royal Atlanta Drive. We were able to positively identify the thief as an employee at the business. We positively identified this person after he was careless enough to make the stolen checks out to his girlfriend.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE … – On February 15, DeKalb Police investigated a fraud complaint where the suspect had items delivered to an address in Tucker. When detectives made contact with the person who received the delivery, they discovered that the “suspect” had ordered the items through a third party and paid for it using PayPal. So, it now becomes a more complicated investigation as we try to ascertain the identity of this third party, who is the real suspect. The message here is if you see a deal on the internet that is too good to be true, it probably is.

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