Break-in at MPD vehicle impound lot could imperil dozens of criminal cases

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article130474469.html

 

BY CHARLES RABIN

 

As many as four dozen vehicles impounded over the years as evidence in unsolved fatalities and crimes were broken into late Monday night or early Tuesday — at almost the very same spot where Miami Police said in October that stored evidence from hundreds of homicides and unclassified deaths had been rotting for years. 

The vehicles of all types, from small cars to SUVs and trucks, were either impounded after traffic fatalities or because they had been used in crimes. Police, who were still investigating the incident Thursday, couldn't definitively say the exposure had damaged the cases of any unsolved crimes. 

They also weren't certain about the exact number of vehicles that had been broken into because many of them had been damaged during accidents.

“There was a breach of the security of the impound lot,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes. “We're investigating it as a crime. It's not the same area where the evidence was stored.” 

Sources familiar with the investigation said though there was no surveillance video in the vehicle lot, they are reviewing cameras from nearby in a search for evidence. 

The cars were stored behind a chain-link fence under I-95 and across the street from Miami police headquarters at 400 NW Second Ave. A source familiar with the investigation said the burglars broke through fencing then ransacked the vehicles, breaking windows and stealing some contents. The break-in was first reported by Miami blogger Al Crespo. 

The break-ins occurred behind fencing adjacent to where police discovered a rotted evidence container in October with hundreds of pieces of evidence that had been contaminated rodents and the elements. 

The blowback from that mishap has been substantial, with the city's police union chief lambasting the carelessness and calling for an outside investigator and the chair of the city's Civilian Investigative panel calling the destruction of evidence, “malpractice.” 

Llanes said of the recent vehicle break-ins that investigators were searching through impound sheets to determine what had been stolen.