Misawa officials have suspect in base home thefts
November 4, 2007
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Base officials said Friday they are confident they’ve caught the person responsible for a string of thefts from homes in September.
The “person of interest” is an adult, the husband of a U.S. Air Force member at Misawa living in base housing, according to Maj. Scott Sanford, 35th Security Forces Squadron commander.
Officials would not disclose the names of either individual, citing the ongoing investigation and privacy act rules.
“We received a tip through a community member,” Sanford said in an interview Friday. “We acted on the tip. An individual was identified.
“The community really pulled together. That’s the good news story we’re most proud of,” he added.
The U.S. military doesn’t have criminal jurisdiction over civilians and can’t prosecute the suspect. But the man can be held accountable for his actions through a civilian advisory board for spouses and children of military members, said Maj. Kristine Autorino, 35th Fighter Wing deputy staff judge advocate.
Punishment can include community service, writing letters of apology, restitution, personal improvement or educational classes, or debarment from base.
The suspect is scheduled to appear later this month before an advisory board. An independent, senior-ranking officer on base will be appointed by the wing commander as hearing officer, Autorino said.
Also present at the hearing will be a bailiff, the suspect and his sponsor, and any witnesses requested by the hearing officer or suspect. The individual can appeal the findings or punishment to the wing commander.
The man admitted to five of the eight house thefts at Misawa, Sanford said, but officials don’t believe other people are involved.
“Initially, our impression was there was more than one person responsible based upon initial witness reports,” Sanford said.
The thefts occurred in main base housing between Sept. 4 and 21. Most occurred in the evening, while the occupants were home, and appeared to be random. The thief gained entry through unlocked doors.
The thefts were petty, with items such as laptops, purses and video games stolen. Some people lost credit cards and military ID cards. In all, more than $3,000 in property was pilfered.
Base officials have recovered some of the stolen items and plan to return them to their owners pending the case’s outcome, Sanford said.
The suspect didn’t discuss his motive for the crimes, officials said, but he has expressed remorse and a willingness to provide restitution.
The suspect is not in confinement, but various agencies on base “are aware of where he is,” Sanford said. He added that there have been no further reports of thefts from homes since the suspect was detained for questioning in early October.