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.