After a lengthy investigation and a surveillance stake-out, the ACU Police Department identified and arrested a man prowling vehicles in the parking lot of the Williams Performing Arts Center at 10:10 p.m. on March 15.
After observing a pattern of similar vehicle burglaries on March 13 and March 14, the ACU Police Department and Chief of Police Jimmy Ellison set up a subsequent investigation.
“Based on that pattern, we reviewed hours and hours of digital surveillance media and were able to identify a possible suspect vehicle from the video,” Ellison said.
The next night, eight officers positioned themselves on various parking lots around campus.
As an investigative tool, surveillance consists of officers observing the suspect nearby without interference until the suspect gives officers proof or reason to act on their suspicions.
“We decided to roll the dice and see if he would come back a third night,” Ellison said. “So we set up a surveillance and actually observed him leaving home and coming to campus in the same vehicle.”
Ellison said the suspect remained on campus and wandered multiple residence hall parking lots for over an hour. Officers decided to step in when they believed he was attempting to break into a vehicle, Ellison said. The man was in possession of a glove and wide nylon strap with a heavy ratchet buckle, possibly used to break vehicle windows.
“He was acting so suspiciously and so nervously, and no one reported him,” Ellison. “There were a lot of people out that night especially on the Lunsford Trail, and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t receive any calls on him.”
After fleeing on foot, the man was apprehended for evading detention, and was booked in the Taylor County Jail. The punishment for a Class A Misdemeanor is up to one year in county jail and charges possibly reaching $2,000. The man was also issued a criminal trespass warning, which bans him from ever coming back to campus in the future.
Two officers from the Abilene Police Department also assisted the ACU Police Department in detaining the individual.
“The Abilene Police Department was in pursuit of the suspect for other offenses, so the information exchange is a positive thing about our partnership,” Ellison said.
Ellison said he continues to urge students and faculty to report all suspicious activity.
“Every incident that we can log and track helps build our database of trends and patterns,” Ellison said.
As a result of the suspect’s arrest, officers were able to recover property from several previous vehicle thefts.
Ellison said that he was proud of his surveillance officers for their work reviewing the video and executing a successful surveillance of the suspect.
“Students should be aware that their ACU Police Department is working 24/7 and behind the scenes,” Ellison said. “We’re not just taking reports. We are actually investigating and working with those reports through completion.”