Police have to be wary these days when investigating crimes as there are near daily suspicions that reports of crimes are false statements made to cover up gambling losses.
Major Rodney McGilvary, patrol division, Biloxi Police Department, said that he reads reports every day where people claim to have left expensive jewelry in bathrooms at casinos or convenience stores. He finds it hard to believe so many people would leave expensive jewelry laying on bathroom sinks.
“I suspect most people wouldn’t leave a $55,000 diamond ring laying on a bathroom counter,” he said. “But we have to investigate each incident, and follow the leads where they take us.”
McGilvary said the false reporting of crimes takes away from efforts to help real crime victims. “Any time someone reports a crime we hope they are being candid and truthful,” he said. “When they aren’t it, takes time away from investigations involving legitimate crime victims.”
Gulfport Police Chief George Payne Jr. said he was tired of wasting taxpayers’ money investigating crimes reported by people trying to cover up a gambling loss. Payne said police are seeing more and more cases where people are using the police to justify their losses by reporting a false crime as an excuse for their losses.
In the most highly publicized incident of that recently, Cassandra Murphy, 35, told Gulfport Police that she was kidnapped March 7 and taken to Slidell. On March 9 the woman was found in the trunk of her car by construction workers at St. Tammany Mall.
Police became suspicious because the woman didn’t show physical signs of having been locked in her trunk for two days and gave several different versions of the supposed kidnapping. Later the woman recanted, and said she planned the kidnapping hoax to cover up stealing $200 from her boss, which she lost gambling.
Gulfport Police have started tracking fake crimes related to gambling.
Chief Payne said charges won’t be filed against the woman who reported the false kidnapping because it currently is not against state law to falsely report a crime. Payne said police will likely go before the Mississippi Legislature next year and ask for a statute spelling out penalties for falsely reporting crimes.
“We need a more broad-based law,” Payne said. “Now it is a crime to falsely report a crime only under certain circumstances such as with a sworn affidavit.”
Louisiana has a law regarding false crime reports, a misdemeanor offense carrying a penalty of $500 or six months in jail or both. Slidell Police Chief Ben Morris also reports problems with false crime reports. He said people often claim they were robbed, but it turns out the money “is in the hands of the Mississippi casinos.”
McGilvary said it is hard to say whether it is easy to get away with reporting false crimes.
“Is it easy to get away with shoplifting? It all depends on the situation,” McGilvary said. “We have to investigate each incident, and take the leads where they lead us.”
McGilvary said types of false crimes reported in Biloxi include thefts, burglaries and robberies. He said the false complaints come from a combination of local people and visitors from out of town. He added the false complaints aren’t confined to problem gamblers.
“I’m wondering what the statistics would be about false crimes reported by people with other problems like drug use and alcoholism,” he said. “Gamblers aren’t only ones who would falsely report a crime.”
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