Crime solving info often only as good as community’s dedicated involvement

| March 27, 2013

FORT WAYNE—In his commentary (above) in this edition of Frost Illustrated, Brother Tyrone Cato raised the question of whether crime was less rampant in certain communities because residents there were less inclined to tolerate it—and did what they had to help police help solve crimes. He pointed out how the recent Rudisill Boulevard murder suspect was caught the same day of the shooting, while other shootings in the more centralized section of the community are not as quickly solved. Similarly, the following Pettit Avenue murder was solved as quickly because of residents not afraid to speak out and immediately report what they saw.

While she makes no differentiation among different segments of the community, Fort Wayne Police Department Public Information Officer Raquel Foster confirmed that those two murders were quickly addressed because of a different from usual community response.

“The big difference was valuable information immediately received,” explained Foster, saying that people living in and traveling through the Rudisill Boulevard and Indiana Avenue area where 22-year-old Gerelle R. Borum was murdered as he was walking down the street.

Tips from people who saw the shooting and the suspect vehicle enabled police officials to quickly arrest 22-year-old Josiah C. Thomas for the slaying.

“We found the suspect vehicle right a way, got a warrant and found evidence to link it to the scene of the crime,” she said.

Foster said the department does get information on most crimes and police officials often have a good idea of who has committed a crime but anonymous tips or late information isn’t always good enough to finish solving the crime.

“We receive information often. It’s after the fact, hours later. They call crime stoppers and just drop a name,” said Foster. “That’s valuable, but we can’t interview that person. We don’t get to follow up.”

Many times that means investigators can only go so far and don’t have enough evidence to charge a suspect. Sometimes, even a single, actual witness isn’t enough.

“Often, we know the perpetrator, but we have to be able to corroborate a witness’ story,” she explained.

She said, sometimes people don’t realize what information they have that investigators might find valuable. For example, if more than one person is willing to come forward to say they saw a person walking or driving in a certain area, that might lead to a break in a case.

“That minor detail might not seem important to you, but that might help a detective construct a timeline or establish someone being in an area,” said Foster. “If you have multiple sources telling you the same story, that lends credibility to the story.”

Most of all, immediate information is helpful, she said, adding that helped solve last week’s most recent killings quickly.

For example, moments after the March 19 slaying of 22 year-old Gerelle R. Borum on Rudisill Boulevard near Indiana Avenue, the police department received a flood of calls—and real time information about the suspect vehicle.

“People stayed on the phone and gave us information. We had witnesses to positively ID the vehicle. That was a huge difference—available information received immediately, rather than hours later or an anonymous tip that we can’t follow up on,” said Foster.

“We always talk about the community being our partner, well that was a big example,” she said.

It was the same in the March 20 murder of 49-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy, who reportedly was dragged off a city bus near Pettit Avenue and Reed Street and killed by her ex-boyfriend, 45-year-old Kenneth Knight. Thanks to the assistance of citizens, police quickly tracked Knight to a Holton Avenue home where he was holding a three-year-old child hostage. Police snipers killed Knight after he refused to surrender.

“Ms. Hardy rode that bus all the time,” said Foster. “The perpetrator was known to other passengers because he rode the bus too. They knew he was ‘her boyfriend.’

“So we knew who we were looking for because of the passengers on the bus knew who was on that bus. We knew right away who we were looking for. It was just a matter of finding him. They gave us a description but the biggest piece was ‘that’s her boyfriend.’ Folks called right away,” said Foster.

Read more community voices speaking out about the recent violence.

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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