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Crime analyst gets in trouble

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:11 PM

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She answered an email and used the tipster's name.

Considering she was using the Crime Stoppers hotline, a system reliant on anonymity and trust, she was in violation of a serious policy.

As a result, Teresa Garcia, a long-time crime analyst with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, was reprimanded.

Deputies still acted on the tip, which led to the arrest of one of the county's most-wanted suspects, said sheriff's office spokeswoman Denise Moloney.

Edward Gaither, 26, who was wanted on various battery counts and other charges, was apprehended Sept. 7 at a Spring Hill bar.

Gaither's list of charges also included failure to appear in court. He paid his bail bondsman to get out of jail, but he didn't honor the agreement.

The bondsman knew where Gaither was and sent the email to Crime Stoppers on Aug. 21, according to reports.

The hotline has been used a lot for that purpose — by the same bondsman.

Garcia told the tipster there are preferred ways of bringing in a suspect who skips a court hearing — and Crime Stoppers isn't one of them. The bondsman, in turn, didn't like her tone.

"The complainant expressed concern that you were sarcastic during a two-way communication via Crime Stoppers; and that you directed the subject to not call in tips to Crime Stoppers," wrote Capt. James Terry to Garcia in an employee interview report.

He also pointed out that Garcia erred when she used the bondsman's name in her reply. Based on Terry's comments, Garcia used the name while explaining to the tipster why he or she was ineligible for a cash reward.

Crime Stoppers is an emergency system that allows residents to call or email anonymous tips to local law enforcement. It allows someone to report crimes or provide information about the whereabouts of wanted criminals without making them part of the investigation.

It offers residents a safe way to assist law enforcement and makes them eligible for cash rewards of up to $1,000.

Because of the agency's policy of keeping tipster's names confidential, Hernando Today is not publishing the bondsman's name. The bondsman was contacted for the story, but declined comment.

"It is inappropriate to advise the tipster to not contact Crime Stoppers," Terry wrote in his report. "Additionally, it is inappropriate to document the tipsters name in the two way dialogue … You can advise a tipster that they are ineligible for reward … without actually listing the name of the tipster."

Terry told Hernando Today there is no sheriff's office policy that precludes bondsmen from using Crime Stoppers to provide tips, but there is a policy that would likely exclude them from receiving a reward.

Bondsmen generally are responsible for their own customers. If someone skips out on bond or misses a court date, they are often the officials who bring them to jail. It is part of the business. Oftentimes, especially whenever there is an obvious element of danger, they will request assistance.

"Bondsmen at times will seek help and depending on the situation, we may or may not get involved," said Terry.

"If the target is simply an off-bond status and no warrants signed by a judge exist, then our actions would be limited to something like standing by in an area in anticipation of potential violence," he continued. "If there are warrants signed by a judge, then we can take any action consistent with warrant service procedures."

Gaither fell into the latter category.

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