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Evidence lockers' break-in: Inside job?

Orlando Sentinel (Florida), FINAL

BYLINE: Gary Taylor, Orlando Sentinel

Sanford, FL

Investigating crime is the business of the Sanford police, but the department's probes usually don't stem from something that happened under the police station's roof.

Locks were broken off two evidence lockers last week, an act police are calling vandalism. But there is widespread speculation around the agency that someone was looking for a pile of cash -- more than $10,000 -- taken during the execution of a search warrant in the city.

"Tying it to the money is a leap," Chief Brian Tooley said. "Certainly it's speculation. I would think that anybody internally would know that we wouldn't keep that much money in a locker."

The lockers are used to store some evidence until technicians can transfer it to the secure evidence room, but large amounts of drugs or money and critical evidence are never placed in the lockers, spokeswoman Cleo Cohen said. If officers have that type of property, evidence technicians are called to the station to take control of it.

The money was seized the night of Nov. 20, she said. An officer discovered the locks had been pried off the lockers about 1:25 a.m. the following Monday.

As many as 20 people could have worked during that span of time, but all employees have access to the building, she said.

"It's an old building with a lot of keys out there," Tooley said.

There have also been issues with a self-closing door that doesn't always shut properly, he said.

Sanford police are about a year away from moving into a new building with state-of-the-art security. Meanwhile, steps are being taken to improve security at the building on French Avenue at Ninth Street, Tooley said.

The thought that someone working for the agency would burglarize or vandalize the lockers "would be most disturbing, most disheartening," he said.

If it turns out to be an employee, Tooley vows to make an example of that person through prosecution and termination.

The only thing in the lockers was a videotape and some paperwork. Tooley said he does not think the incident will have any effect on open cases.

The lockers, which have been in use for about 10 years, are in a highly visible location, Tooley said.

Authorities declined to say whether there are any surveillance cameras in that area.

CONTACT: Gary Taylor can be reached at 407-391-9681 or

Copyright 2009 Sentinel Communications Co.

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