By Amy NewcombOctober 17, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- (Oct. 18, 2012) Military Police Investigators have apprehended an individual suspected of 18 acts of larceny that included the theft of $15,000 to $20,000 of TA-50 and private property from secured and unsecured vehicles.
According to the Directorate of Emergency Services, larceny is consistently in the top five offenses committed on Fort Leonard Wood.
Maj. Scott Hubbard, deputy provost marshal, said it is very important to protect yourself from theft, and if you see someone acting suspiciously, report it.
"Don't put stuff in plain view. These guys want easy crime. Don't be a target of opportunity," Hubbard said. "Keep an eye out. You have to report stuff to us so we can act on it."
Hubbard also advised that private property and TA-50 be marked, with either a piece of tape with a name on it or sewn somewhere on the equipment because it makes it easier for the military police to get your stolen goods back to you, and it helps convict criminals.
"There are a lot of ways you can do that. On the inside of helmets or the inside of vests," Hubbard said. "Unless the thief totally disassembles your gear, they aren't going to know it's there."
Recently, 1st Sgt. Jaime Lopez, 232nd Engineer Company, placed three Soldiers on watch detail after several of his Soldiers had items stolen from their vehicles.
Sgt. Brandon Pintar, Sgt. Keith Benolken and Spc. Kurtis Quinton made up the surveillance team and positioned themselves in the area the thefts had taken place to watch for vehicles and people that didn't belong there.
Benolken was the first to spot the suspect. He noticed a vehicle drive slowly past him and turn into the motor pool. He had never seen the vehicle or the individual, so he got out of his vehicle to see what the individual was doing.
"Once he saw me, he took off," Benolken said.
However, Benolken took down the license plate number and make of the car and called Pintar to share the information.
Approximately 45 minutes later, Pintar spotted the suspect's vehicle on the opposite side of the motor pool.
"I pulled out on the shoulder where he couldn't see me. I then saw him check the door handle of a vehicle," Pintar said.
Shortly after trying the locked vehicle, the suspect once again left the area. However, he didn't stay gone long. The suspect was caught a third time by Pintar and Quinton "staking" out another vehicle in a different section of the motor pool.
MPI made the arrest shortly after Lopez called to report the suspect was located in their motor pool.
Prior to the arrest, Sgt. Liney Hernandez, 94th Eng. Bn., a victim of the crime spree, said she didn't normally keep TA-50, or military issued gear, in her vehicle; however, she has to bring her gear to work because of mandatory training.
Shortly after she arrived at work one morning, she went to retrieve her gear from her vehicle but could not find it.
"I never keep my TA-50 in my car, except for my Kevlar, because I need it for work, so I started searching for it. I went back to my place and searched everywhere and couldn't find it," she said.
Hernandez said the items stolen were going to cost between $850 to $900. She contacted her insurance company, and they told her they would only cover her personal property, not her TA-50.
"They said the gear was not covered under my insurance, only personal items," Hernandez said. "You better check your insurance. You better call your insurance and verify what items are covered. Tell them to give you a break down. I didn't know my TA-50 wasn't covered. You have to be blunt about it."
Hernandez said because of her work environment, it is impossible to not carry her TA-50 in her vehicle. She believes there needs to be somewhere for Soldiers to secure their gear safely and securely when they are at work.
"If the gear is left unsecured at work … someone will steal it," Hernandez said. "I think the chain of command should really get involved and find a place for Soldiers -- even if it's a wall locker or a trunk -- to secure their items while they are at work, so this doesn't happen to Soldiers who have to have their gear at work."
Hernandez said she advises her Soldiers to find a way to secure their gear while they are at work, so they do not have to put it back in their vehicles once they are finished using it.
"Don't leave anything out in the open that attracts people. Don't leave an iPod in the open or in your console. Do not keep shiny electronics for anyone to see, because it attracts them," she said. "I think that is where I made my mistake."