MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Thefts, burglaries, and smash and grab property offenses have long plagued Montgomery. Even if officers caught a suspect in the act, vehicle pursuits were strictly limited to suspects engaged in felony crimes.
Criminals had the upper hand.
“It wasn’t practical in this day and age when a lot of your crimes are property crimes,” stated Sgt. Jarrett Williams. “People are breaking into houses, people are stealing cars and our policy didn’t support us chasing those people.”
But now it does. Less than a month ago MPD elected to expand their pursuit policy to include property offenses.
“People were getting away with crimes in Montgomery,” said Williams. “We felt like this would do our citizens more justice.”
In a matter of days MPD used this policy to make numerous arrests in multiple stolen vehicle cases. In fact, Williams quickly pulled together three pursuit-related arrests in a matter of minutes.
“It’s been very helpful to the community,” he said. “Those are people’s vehicles, those are real victims out there. We want to protect the life and property of all citizens. That includes retrieving stolen property and getting it back to them.”
Montgomery is now among the majority of local agencies that pursue for violent and non-violent crimes. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Prattville Police Department pursue felony crimes, and their policy allows pursuit for property crimes if conditions warrant. Wetumpka Police Department is in the process of transitioning to a felony-only pursuit policy. The change is prompted by an overall concern for public safety. ALEA declined to discuss their pursuit policy, stating they do not release policies and procedures for day-to-day operations.
Pursuits are a liability for the officers and the public. This is the reason many departments only allow it when the public safety risk of allowing a suspect to remain at large outweighs the risks that go along with a chase.
“Vehicle pursuits are some of the most dangerous aspects of police work,” said Williams. “We are going to constantly review these pursuits for safety. They are going to supervised by on duty supervisors and evaluated by staff after the fact.”
Officers are trained to drive in high-stress, high-speed pursuits at the academy. They ask all drivers to be alert behind the wheel and listen for sirens as chases will likely increase across the city. Drivers should yield to the right to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
“There will be no unjustifiable risk to public and we will terminate anything that becomes too dangerous,” Williams said. “Traffic conditions are certainly a part of that, which will be under constant evaluation.”
Pursuit related arrests include:
- Lequintin Townsend, 18, charged with three counts of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, first-degree receiving stolen property, and attempting to elude. Police say he broke into a home on Gas Light Curve on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 at about 1:33 a.m. and demanded property. MPD located a stolen vehicle at the intersection of Tory Highway and Virginia Loop they believed was related to the robbery. Officers arrested Townsend following a brief pursuit. He’s being held on a $301,000 bond.
- MPD charged a juvenile with receiving stolen property first degree for their alleged role in a vehicle theft on Park Avenue on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. MPD saw the stolen vehicle on Genetta Court and attempted to pull them over. The suspect led police on a pursuit where they crashed on S. Perry Street. They were arrested after a foot pursuit. They are being held in the Youth Detention Facility. Additional charges are anticipated.
- Another juvenile is charged with first-degree theft of property, fraudulent use of a credit card, and attempting to elude after a victim reported their vehicle stolen on July 24, 2019 on W. Fairview Ave. The victim stated that after their vehicle was stolen, the suspect used their debit/credit card to make a purchase. The next day officers saw the vehicle near W. Delano and Happiness Avenue and pursued the car until it crashed on E. Edgemont Avenue. They are being held in the Youth Detention Facility.