Inspectors at district stations helped crack case

March 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The arrest of a prolific cat burglar in San Francisco is being cited as proof that the new police chief's policies are working. Officers recovered truckloads of stolen goods after investigators were able to connect the dots.

Police officials ABC7 spoke with say this is a perfect example of why inspectors or crime investigators need to be working in district stations and not downtown at the Hall of Justice and this was a big victory for police in a city where property crimes make up 90 percent of all crimes.

"My computer, all small electronics, jewelry, purses, pretty much anything you could get or carry out easily had been stolen," said burglary victim Courtney McSpadden.

McSpadden listed all the things Pooja Gandhi is accused of stealing from her Marina apartment six months ago.

"I was really happy to find out they caught this person," said McSadden.

When police arrested Gandhi and Joseph Valdez two weeks ago at a Polk Street apartment building, they could not believe how many stolen goods they found.

"We have five truckloads of property we just completed inventorying after probably a week's time," said San Francisco police Sgt. Marty Lalor.

Police showed ABC7 News some of the items like expensive clothing, beauty supplies, even dog collars, and much more.

"I've been here 20 years and this is the largest amount of property we seized on an individual case," said Lalor.

Police officials said they were able to crack the burglary ring in large part because they've moved many inspectors from the Hall of Justice to district police stations. Decentralization is part of police Chief George Gascon's reform program.

"The officers out in the field are actually having more contact and more interaction with the inspectors. We feel it's given more of the human side, that human element that was lacking from the inspectors being solely in one location," said police department spokesman Officer Boaz Mariles.

Officers at northern police station found fingerprints at two burglaries, they linked the prints to Gandhi, photographs were circulated to patrol officers throughout the city, and all of this was done quickly.

Mariles says all of that would have taken longer if inspectors were still at the hall.

"This process could have possibly taken months with the amount of caseload citywide that the inspectors are facing," said Mariles.

An alert officer recognized Gandhi from her picture on the police bulletin when he was canvassing Polk Street after a recent burglary.

"So that gave us a starting point for our investigative team to go out and set up surveillance on that area," said Lalor.

ABC7 has learned that police are looking at other possible associates of Gandhi and other burglaries she may have committed. There is an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, hold on her because she may be here illegally from Canada.


Load Comments