catch theft suspect
University Police Department recently honored six U.Va. Health
System employees for their fast thinking when they detained
a woman who was later charged with theft and fraud.
Police spokeswoman Melissa Fielding said the arrest of Gerlene
Scott, 19, may clear up between 12 and 20 reported cases of theft
around the Medical Center. Scott, of Cartersville, was charged
with two felony counts of credit card fraud and two counts of
misdemeanor credit card theft. Other charges may be pending.According
to Fielding, Scott made a voluntary statement to police on Nov.
13 admitting to multiple thefts, and some physical evidence was
taken from her.
who has no affiliation with the University, is accused of taking
two credit cards from one Medical Center employee and using them
in area stores to purchase gasoline and unspecified automobile
parts. The fraud charges, which will be prosecuted in Albemarle
County, are felonies because the purchases exceeded $1,000. Charlottesville
will prosecute the misdemeanor thefts, since they happened in
McLeod Hall employees said they were suspicious of Scott because
she seemed to be wandering around the building and matched the
description of a person seen in the area of previous thefts.
just got a feeling, said Fielding. She seemed to have
no official business there. There had been the warnings, and she
was seen on multiple levels.
nursing professors Suzanne Burns and Juanita Reigle diverted Scott,
talking with her about the nursing shortage and asking if she
were interested in a career in nursing, while staff member Janice
Martin called 911, according to Fielding. Associate nursing professor
Arlene Keeling stood watch outside the room while waiting for
police, and grants administrator Marianne Lampert kept Scott under
surveillance. Facilities coordinator Becky Bowers, who was instrumental
in establishing a protocol for handling suspicious people in the
building, was the first to be suspicious of Scott and kept her
in sight as the others got involved, Fielding said.
Police arrived on the scene after Scott was first observed, and
Scott agreed to voluntarily accompany them to police headquarters,
by U.Va. PoliceReported by U.Va. Police (includes attempts)
arrest came one day before Fielding met with McLeod Hall employees
to discuss safety and security in the wake of a series of thefts
from the Medical Center complex, mostly of purses and wallets
taken from offices and labs. The thief was apparently wandering
at will through the Medical Center, according to Fielding, and
though people had seen someone who did not appear to belong, they
did not remark on it until after the thefts were reported.
were going to talk to the McLeod staff on how to secure the building,
Fielding said. The police are only as successful as the
community allows them to be. We need extra eyes and ears out there.
action of the staff members was recognized at the meeting, where
several of them were presented with certificates and mugs.
said employees should challenge people who appear in their area
without apparent authorization. She said greeting them, asking
to be of assistance, asking who they are looking for may be enough
to prevent a theft. If employees are not comfortable confronting
an apparent intruder, she said they should keep the person in
sight, get a description and, if the person leaves, determine
their direction of travel. Obtain an automobile license plate
number, if possible.
cabinets and desk drawers are most common places to leave purses
and wallets and thieves know this, said Fielding, who suggested
file and desk drawers containing valuables be locked.
and theft from automobiles have been the most common complaints
from the academic side of the Grounds, according to Fielding,
who said people should lock valuables out of sight in the trunk.
Just because someone has been arrested, Fielding warned McLeod
employees, there is no reason for them to let down their guard.
should also be aware of cars traveling at night without lights,
the sound of breaking glass and people in inappropriate places,
Fielding said, advising people to call 911 for anything suspicious.
The dispatcher will determine which police department to contact.
would rather be called and not needed, than not called and be
needed, Fielding said.