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Investigators Overwhelmed by Case Loads

Investigators Overwhelmed by Case Loads



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Samantha Hayes reporting Few things leave you feeling more violated than discovering your home has been broken into, or seeing an empty spot where your car used to be.

The first thing you want, besides your stuff back, is justice.

But Samantha Hayes found neither is likely, especially in property crime cases.

This officer, like many others in the valley, will most likely respond to at least one burglary tonight.

A report will be waiting for a detective tomorrow, along with about 14 others. The files add up quickly and before long, most are "Case Closed."

When Brent Sloan opened the door to his garage one Sunday morning, the utter shock of what wasn't there didn't seem real at first.

Brent Sloan: "We tried to think who might have taken it. Was it a prank or practical joke."

Neither. Sloan's BMW was stolen. And with it personal items left inside.

Brent Sloan: "We kept our checks in the car, our credit cards. We had a computer from work with a lot of critical information, and that was taken."

The theft of his identity turned out to be the most hassle.

Brent Sloan: "The irony is this couple is out writing bad checks across the city. They are able to get goods and services and materials, and I can't get a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken."

And he's getting very little help from police.

Brent Sloan: "The procedure that is followed is, hopefully this stuff will turn up somewhere, perhaps in a drug bust or other situation. And then if you are lucky, something will be recovered."

Salt Lake County Detective Mark Wooten has fifteen years of experience in these sorts of crimes. He starts his day, everyday, looking at about 15 new cases.

Det. Mark Wooten/ Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office: "If there is no information available for me to follow up on, I'll get rid of it right away."

Even if there is some information, no individual case gets its own detective.

Det. Mark Wooten: "Something like that would take me months and months. And when I'm getting all these cases every day, I just don't have the time to do it."

First he looks for a suspect description. And sometimes, like in Brent Sloan's case, that can be found when the thief tries to spend someone else's money.

Brent Sloan: "In three hours, he was in locations with video cameras."

Detectives say those pictures are too poor to use.

Finding the suspect out on the road is also difficult.

Det. Kevin Barrett/ Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office: "I don't know if a vehicle has been stolen in Sandy, Murray, or Midvale and one driving in my area could drive right past me and I'll never know that was a stolen car."

In 2002 there were 13,816 burglaries in Utah. Of those, only 11 percent-- 1,517 --were cleared.

The value of property stolen in the same year was nearly $88 million. Twenty-seven percent was recovered.

Det. Mark Wooten: "Overwhelmed? Yeah, I'm overwhelmed. (It) never, never ends."

And the criminal knows it.

Det. Mark Wooten: "They are well aware the chance of them getting caught is pretty slim."

Case Closed.

Hiring more detectives isn't necessarily the answer. Those on the job say property crime is so prevelant-there is nowhere to put criminals if they are arrested.

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