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Hollywood Police Department says missing evidence a thing of the past

"We believe the practices we have in place will prevent any problems in the future,"

November 20, 2019

When Hollywood police failed to keep track of their evidence room — losing $137,609 in cash and 1,096 pills — they got a sharp rebuke from a county watchdog agency for not catching the colossal error.

The missing evidence cost the police department its state accreditation two years ago. It also led to a scathing report earlier this year from the Broward Office of the Inspector General, accusing the agency of grossly mismanaging its property and evidence room.

On Thursday, Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said those problems are a thing of the past.

"We believe the practices we have in place will prevent any problems in the future," Sanchez said. "We have so many internal audits now that we are very comfortable that this won't happen again. We do it randomly and we use people from other divisions within the agency."

The theft that got the department in hot water went on for years and was not discovered until 2012, the Inspector General's report said.

Police supervisors became aware something was amiss in January that year, when a man arrested in 2007 ed the department, seeking the return of $743 that had been seized from him.

Vault logs confirmed the cash should have been there, but it was missing. That incident led to the discovery of more missing cash and oxycodone pills, sparking an investigation by Hollywood's Internal Affairs division.

Sgt. John Nevins ran the property and evidence unit from 2006 through 2012. Nevins, now retired, was investigated but never charged. The Broward State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence.

"Evidence required to prosecute the culprits was unavailable because the Hollywood Police Department had failed to institute security measures to document access, such as security cameras," Inspector General John Scott wrote in a report released in February.

The agency has since installed security cameras, increased inventory checks, beefed up supervision and training for property clerks and officers.

This week, the chief sent a status report to the Inspector General's Office detailing changes made at the department to prevent such a theft from happening again.

One key change involves the continued purging of items from the evidence room, Sanchez said. More than 1,220 items have been destroyed in recent weeks and another 3,440 items are in line to be destroyed.

"To err on the side of caution, previous administrations didn't purge items," Sanchez said. "Our property room should have had only 50,000 items and we had over 120,000 items. It made it that much difficult to find items and keep things under control. We should have been purging them under best practices to make it more manageable."

Police officials also have been researching new scanning technology to accurately track, inventory and audit property and evidence.

Other changes include:

  • Conducting two drug burns and scheduling a third one to get them off the streets;
  • Taking 100 firearms to the Broward Sheriff's Office for destruction — bringing the total number of firearms destroyed since the start of the Inspector General's investigation to 502;
  • And spending $66,000 on upgraded storage, scanning and video surveillance functions.

, or visit our 'Sun Sentinel: Hollywood' page at SunSentinel/facebookhollywood

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