ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany crime victim says rookie Albany police officers dropped the ball in catching a criminal.
Mark Murphy says he spotted a man rifling through his car and when he accosted him, the man pulled a knife, then jumped into a car and drove off. Murphy gave police a tag number - problem was - it was only partly correct. So when officers saw the car and the tag number didn't match, they didn't impound it.
The police chief says as he builds the department back up, there are young officers on the force with much to learn.
When Mark Murphy walked out of his Flamingo Lane home last Wednesday morning to take out the trash, he didn't expect to see someone rummaging through his car. He yelled and the thief ran off. "I ran down the driveway and he confronted me at the end of the driveway he turned on me with a knife and had some of my items out of the car in his hand."
Murphy stopped and the thief got into a champagne Honda Accord and drove away. He got the tag number and immediately called police. But Murphy had another run in with the that same man 24 hours later. "The next day, I bump into him by chance at a Supermarket in town."
Again, he called police and eventually led them to Haley Street where the car was parked. But the officer didn't impound it. "You hand the car to them on a silver platter and they do not keep the car. We did the job for them and they didn't do anything about it."
Police Chief James Younger says the tag number Murphy gave police didn't match exactly, two of the tag numbers were transposed, so the detective didn't think he had probable cause. "Still pretty close of a tag number?" "It's pretty close," Younger agreed. "The description of the car was the same. It was said it was out of state, still for an eyewitness, a very good description, wouldn't you say?" Younger said, "I would say it was a good description."
Chief Younger says there's no question Murphy provided good information, but the officer just didn't have the practical experience he needed to move forward with the investigation. He said, "It takes some time and seasoning to develop a sense of what you can do without violating peoples constitutional rights and that just takes time."
Murphy says training or lack there of, is inexcusable. "There's no way to defend it. You can say it's a training issue, there's no way to defend it. They dropped the ball. There are issues, continuing issues inside the police department that need to be addressed immediately."
An initial check on the car showed it was not stolen. Turns out, it actually was. Now police are looking for the car and the man who threatened Murphy's life.
Chief Younger says he is working to hire officers with experience to fill vacant spots in the department. And he asks people with information about this crime or others to let police know. You can do that by calling 436-TIPS.