When police woke a woman in the middle of the night to tell her a thief had broken into her truck, her only comfort was seeing the thief in the back of a patrol car, but her relief was short-lived when officers told her they had to let him go. Now that victim is speaking out against the law she says protects criminals and puts everyone else in danger.
"He said, Ma'am there's someone that has broken into your car in your driveway, and we think we have him," That's how Alka Herald says she started her day around three in the morning Sunday. After the initial shock of seeing a police officer on her doorstep, Herald soon felt differently. "I think it's amazing that they've actually caught somebody because it's been such a problem in the neighborhood and several of my friends' surrounding neighborhoods."
Herald was able to identify two hunting knives that police recovered as missing from her husband's truck. "He caught the guy red-handed coming, running from my house with a bag and the stuff and everything," Herald said.
But it wasn't enough for an arrest. "But he said, 'basically I can't do anything,'" Herald recalled, "'We're going to give him a ticket,' and I was like, what? What do you mean you're giving him a ticket? You have him. We have him. He's right there. He's a big old dude. He's there. Take him to jail. You've got him in the car, but apparently you can't do that with this new House Bill 463."
Proponents of the law that passed back in February, 2011 say House Bill 463 will reduce Kentucky's prison population by more than 3000 inmates over the next 10 years and save hundreds of millions of dollars in corrections costs, but critics say it creates a bigger cost. "Police officers hands are tied," former homicide detective Don Evans said, "With this House Bill, it tells officers that they shall issue citations for a lot of the crimes that they deal with now as opposed to make arrests even if the officer feels like an arrest is more appropriate, their hands are tied. They can't."
Evans says thieves are adapting to the new rules. "These type of criminals are your more prolific criminals, and if you don't get them off the street right then, they'll just go on and continue breaking in to cars or breaking in to homes, and the officers are powerless."
Until the break-in Herald says she'd never heard of the limitations on police, but now she says she wants everyone to know about them. "We need to be protected," Herald said, "The people of Kentucky need to be protected, not the criminals."
Police cited the suspect in this theft for receiving stolen property under five-hundred dollars.
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