Hattiesburg City Hall theft still a mystery

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three years have passed since more than $150,000 worth of computers and other devices containing sensitive personal data on thousands of city workers and contractors were taken from Hattiesburg City Hall.

While no new information or developments have been uncovered in the theft that occurred late June 22 or early June 23, 2006, Hattiesburg police say they are still determined to solve the case.

“At this time the case is open, but it’s inactive until we can find some other evidence,” said police department spokesman Synarus Green.

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Green said the department has pretty much exhausted all leads.

Green said the bulk of evidence from a crime scene is collected within the first 48 hours. The longer a case goes unsolved, he said, the harder it is to gain more evidence.

Green also said the former lead investigator on the case is now on military leave. He said the case has been assigned to Hattiesburg Police Department’s team of detectives. The case will remain open until an arrest is made.

City hall security cameras captured images of two men who broke into the building, but Green said the video quality is too poor to help investigators positively identify the suspects.

Hattiesburg investigators have worked with FBI agents, who also attempted unsuccessfully to get an enhanced image of the two men, Green said.

Some city officials speculated that the break-in could have been an inside job — something city officials have dispelled in previous reports.

“I do believe there are persons that may be with the city of Hattiesburg that may have information they didn’t share because it was just odd, the way it took place,” said Councilwoman Deborah Denard Delgado.

Delgado said she’s unsure if the case will ever get solved.

“(And) I haven’t gotten any additional information about it,” she said.

Council President Kim Bradley said he had to make provisions to have his credit report more closely monitored by a financial service to thwart identity theft.

Both Delgado and Bradley said they have yet to hear of any identity theft claims from any city employee.

“I’d love to know who did it, but I don’t think we’re ever going to know that,” Bradley said.

Although three years have passed, some city employees say the break-in is still a topic of concern.

“I don’t think it’s been forgotten,” said Kermas Eaton, deputy clerk for the city. “I hope it will be solved one day, but it has taken a long time.”

So long that it has become a distant memory for others.

“It’s been three years so I actually forgot about it,” said Kirstin Kettley, a city planner. “It’s like no one even talks about it anymore around here. It’s happened and it’ll probably never surface again unless something comes up and someone says they’re doing something with their information.”