Gautier Police win Golden Cat for helping curb metal theft

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier Police officers were all smiles Wednesday as Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann presented the team with a golden catalytic converter. The "Golden Cat" is an award for putting a dent in metal theft crimes.

The Secretary of State's Office recently implemented the Leads-Online Metal Theft Investigations System statewide, which allows law enforcement agencies to track stolen metal. Since then, more than 40 cases have been solved in Gautier.

"We now have a system where anyone that sells copper has to go to one of the salvage yards. They take a picture of them, their voter ID or ID, and a picture of what they sold. They hold it for three days. So these police are then trained to go online and if there is a theft overnight or someone reports it, they go on right away and see where it was sold anywhere in Mississippi," Hosemann said.

Gautier Police said the computer program was vital in helping them solve more than metal thefts. It helped them solve a 2012 capital murder case that started out as a vehicle fire on Highway 57.

"Once we got there and the fire was extinguished, we realized there was a body inside, and we quickly determined there was foul play involved," Officer Jerry Cooksey said.

Through their investigation, police found out the victim owned a catalytic converter recycling business in Biloxi. So, police said they turned to the system and used their key evidence to make an arrest quickly.

"We were able to link the people he usually does business with through LeadsOnline. Normally what happens is when they use this program, they put the person's product he's buying, like this converter, on there in front of his vehicle. We were able to determine the suspect's vehicle that way and link him to the crime," Investigator Jonathan Whitfield said.

The Secretary of State said good police work like that should be rewarded and he's pleased the computer system could help.

"There has to be repercussions for theft and this gives us that," Hosemann said.

The police department also received $1,000 and that money will go toward purchasing more investigation equipment to help keep this city safe.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.