Monday, May 5, 2008

Virginia Chrysler dealer turns detective to catch tire thief

This is a good story. It shows how CCTV cameras combined with some persistence can help catch and deter thieves:

David Julien got an early morning call from one of his employees informing him that four tires and high-end rims worth a total of $9,000 had been stolen overnight from two Jeep Cherokee SRTs on Mr. Julien’s dealership lot, according to a report in the Virginia Gazette.

(Must be REALLY slow in Williamsburg)

After reporting the crime to police, curiosity prompted Mr. Julien, who owns Williamsburg Chrysler Jeep Kia in Virginia, to review the clues himself. Video from his company surveillance camera revealed that a white Jeep Cherokee had pulled onto the lot during the timeframe of the theft. It pulled out less than an hour later.

Mr. Julien figured the purloined tires would be easy to spot. “There’s only three of those Cherokee SRTs in the Williamsburg area,” he recalled. They run $47,000. “One of them belongs to someone in town. The other two are on my lot.”

He started to think about similar vehicles he had seen pull up lately. It occurred to him that a fellow who came in to look at an SRT drove an older white Jeep Cherokee. Mr. Julien rode by the man’s office, knowing that he usually parked out front. But the Jeep wasn’t there.

A few days later, he rode by again, and this time drove around back of the building. There was the white Cherokee, with all four stolen tires.

Mr. Julien contacted police. “I told them I had found the tires, and I knew who took them,” he said.

The suspect told investigators that he purchased the tires and rims from a man he met at a gas station. Two days later he was arrested and charged with one count of grand larceny.

Back at the dealership, the CCTV surveillance system was the hero. “On one other occasion, a customer who brought a car in for service claimed a laptop had been stolen from the car,” Mr. Julien recalled. “The tape showed the customer carrying it when he left.”