Jul 272012
 

Floyd Williams (via opcso.org)

New technology that allows specially-equipped patrol cars to record any license plate they pass played a major role in leading police to a man who confessed to eight break-ins that span Uptown New Orleans — including at least three churches.

Investigators got their first lead in the case after a July 11 burglary of a bar at Second and Magnolia in Central City, where a TV stolen and a video poker machine broken into, said Lt. Frank Young of the NOPD Sixth District investigations unit. Several days after the break-in, a witness came forward to report that a white BMW had been seen apparently watching the bar prior to the burglary, and the witness even gave police a license plate number that was registered to a 28-year-old Floyd Williams of Baton Rouge, Young said.

Williams was already wanted on several charges connected to the theft of architectural moulding from a home on Leonidas Street, after the victim found the stolen material at an architectural supply warehouse that identified Williams as the seller. With the Baton Rouge address, however, police did not originally think he would still be in Uptown, Young said.

Just in case, they decided to check the license plate number in the database of the district’s car equipped with a license plate reader, Young said. The reader, affixed to a normal patrol car, automatically scans the license plates it passes and checks to make sure they aren’t on stolen cars, but it also maintains a geographical database of the tags it passes.

Sure enough, the database showed that Williams’ car had been seen parked in front of a house on Sixth Street on four different occasions, Young said. The district has only had the device for a few months, and this is the first major crime it has solved, he said.

“I was really amazed with the technology,” Young said. “That really was the big break in the case.”

Investigators began watching the house, and they discovered that the car had fallen into disrepair, Young said. Williams was soon seen in another truck, however, when detectives Claudia Bruce and Tierney Clay stopped him to confront him with the information they had gathered on his activities, he began confessing to a rash of burglaries in the area — often stealing outdoor air-conditioning units with an accomplice to strip them for the copper they contain, Young said.

“They were just driving around, walking up to houses, and walking off with an air conditioner,” Young said. “I don’t know if they gave the appearance that they were service men or what.”

In three of the cases, Williams targeted Central City churches: the Greater Salvation Missionary on Washington Avenue, Second True Love Baptist on South Robertson and Beulah Baptist on Fourth Street, Young said.

“This guy’s going to have to answer to somebody bigger than a judge,” Young said.

Williams is currently being held on theft and possession of stolen goods charges, as well as resisting an officer, because he initially gave a fake name, Young said. The investigation is continuing as police continue to look for pawn or salvage tickets that link back to him or one of his vehicles, Young said.

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  • duff

    How was a white guy able to just walk up to three (3) churches in a black neighborhood and take the air conditioners? Amazing!!!

  • Donald Waits

    Another outrageous case of “profiling”. Shocking.

  • lesley

    i don’t understand how scanning plates is a “major” privacy issue…it’s the same thing as the traffic cameras that record our every move at red lights…this is a good thing, a move forward.

    • Jim

      The scanning of plates to find those associated with reported thefts isn’t a problem. The storing of the information, however, is incredibly troubling. Why is NOPD keeping a database of the whereabouts of citizen’s vehicle?

  • victim of floyd williams

    I am the person he stole the brackets from and I’m extremely grateful for the tracking software because it got this asshole off the street. You clearly have no idea what it is like to have someone trespass on your property while you are at work during the day trying to earn a living just so they can rip your house apart to get a few bucks at a pawn shop. It will cost me hundreds of dollars to repair the damage he caused and it’s made me uneasy in my own home. The bottom line is if you aren’t doing anything wrong or illegal, then you shouldn’t be worried about your movements being recorded by the police who are trying to clean up this dangerous city and get idiots like this guy off the street!

    • Jim

      Actually, yes, I do know what it’s like to have someone break into my property while I’m away. So, in the future, I’d recommend you refrain from jumping to conclusions about people you’ve never met.

      In regards to this specific story, they didn’t even need the technology to apprehend this individual. They had evidence of his actions already that seems sufficient to at least support a search warrant or arrest warrant (one witness placing his vehicle at one of the scenes and another witness identifying him as a seller of stolen merchandise). A simple APB on this guy would have been sufficient.

      “The bottom line is if you aren’t doing anything wrong or illegal, then you shouldn’t be worried about your movements being recorded by the police…”

      Considering how corrupt and generally awful the police are in this city, I find this train of thought bizarre.