By Derrick Perkins
Police officials are not proposing any major changes to their take-home cruiser policy after the theft of two marked department vehicles in mid-December.
“This incident actually didn’t shake our faith in our reason for take home cars,” said Police Chief Earl Cook. “To our knowledge, this is the first time this has actually happened in Alexandria — that someone has stolen a cruiser under these conditions.”
Two men, Daniel Michael Harris, 31, and Corie Gezono Yates, 33, were charged with the thefts last week. The first cruiser went missing overnight December 13 and the second vanished the following Saturday. They were parked outside of off-duty officers’ homes, officials said.
Both were recovered in short order — authorities located one in Prince George’s County and the other in Washington, D.C. — but a Remington 870 shotgun and department-issued laptop stored inside one of the vehicles remain missing.
Maryland authorities arrested Harris after a traffic stop in Anne Arundel County on January 6 and sheriff’s deputies at the city courthouse picked up Yates on January 8. Officers linked the two men to the thefts after a lengthy investigation, a department spokesman said.
Despite the thefts, Cook argues the benefits of letting officers take home their cruisers outweigh any negatives.
“There is a definitive, proven kind of public safety advantage to having them out in the community as a deterrent,” he said.
Stationing marked cruisers around the city might make potential criminals think twice about targeting a neighborhood and it allows officers to respond rapidly during an emergency, Cook said. Officers are allowed to run a few errands in their marked vehicles for similar reasons.
“If you do it in the [police cruiser] it does give the appearance of officers in greater numbers,” Cook said.
And not every officer can take a police vehicle home. Members of the K-9 unit earn the ability because they drive their dogs to and from work each day. Members of the department’s special operations team also receive permission to keep their department-issued vehicles handy.
Department officials grant other officers the take-home cruisers based on geography. There’s no sense in having multiple cars lined up along the same street, Cook said.
“We’re a small city,” he said. “It’s not an issue of cost and there’s a greater good.”
While local authorities continue to investigate the thefts – as well as the missing equipment – department officials also are looking into the officer who left the shotgun and computer in the cruiser overnight. Doing so was in violation of department policy, Cook said.
Police urge anyone with information about the missing property or the vehicle thefts to contact the department’s criminal investigations section at 703-746-6711.
Yates, charged with grand larceny auto, conspiracy to commit grand larceny and possession of stolen property, is expected in court February 11. Harris, also charged with grand larceny auto and possession of stolen property, awaits extradition from Maryland.