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A Hummel Report Investigation

Left in Limbo

A Pawtucket couple is robbed of thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment and jewelry that is eventually recovered in Providence by the Providence Police. Or is it? This week we find the couple has spent more than two months trying to get their possessions back. And Jim Hummel asks the Providence Police: Why?

SCRIPT

The housebreak happened November eight in the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket.

Someone broke into the second-floor apartment where Andrew Dalton and Nina Hewitt live with their infant son. A quick - but effective - hit, while no one was home.

Dalton: ``A couple of laptops , a video camera, a digital camera , printer, scanners. I work from home so it's all the stuff we use here.''
Andrew Dalton figured he'd never see his stuff again. But about a month later he got a call that the Providence Police had made a huge arrest, clearing nearly two dozen house breaks in three communities - including theirs.

Hummel: ``When it initially happened, did you have any hope that they were going to catch them?''

Dalton: ``No - we just kind of kissed the stuff goodbye with no hope of getting it.

Hummel: ``So it was a pleasant surprise when you found out.''

Dalton: ``It was great when we found out that not only they got them and they're off the street - nobody else is going to get broken into - but there was  a possibility of getting some of our stuff back that they hadn't sold yet.''

That's when the couple's odyssey began. Nina Hewitt took charge at first, trying to contact the Providence Police. After several attempts she finally reached a detective.

Hummel: ``How was he when you talked to him?

Hewitt: ``Annoyed. Everybody I've spoken to has been annoyed, including the secretary when you walk in to the Providence Police Station.''

Hummel: ``Annoyed by what?''

Hewitt: ``Annoyed by my presence. Annoyed that I have the audacity to dare ask for something back. Really just annoyed that I was wasting their time.''

Hewitt became so frustrated trying repeatedly to reach someone - by phone and in person - that she handed it off to Dalton.

Dalton: ``So after a few attempts of leaving messages I finally got a hold of somebody and they gave me the name of somebody else and it kind of went that way for a couple of weeks and one of  the detectives told us to come down and look through the stuff because it's in the property room and we can view it - see if it our stuff in there .

``So we went down, got a copy of the police report. We needed that before they would let us upstairs. We went upstairs met a gentlemen at the elevator on the 2nd floor, a detective, he brought us to the property room, which was behind a door we couldn't look at. He said `The stuff's behind the door but you can't go in to this room because the person who works in the property room isn't working today.'"

Hewitt: ``I don't get it and that's sort of what I was faced with whenever I talked with them, why the attitude? I don't understand why you're giving me attitude right now, just trying to get my stolen stuff back.''

Hummel: ``How did they leave it when you left?''

Dalton: ``They took our name, another list of what was stolen out of the apartment, he said the person in charge of the property room would be getting back to us, either later that day, or first thing in the morning.''

Hummel: ``And?''

Dalton: ``Nobody called.''

Hewitt: ``When we finally showed up to the police department, it was a Friday afternoon and I stood in front of the secretary with my son and it got the point I had tears in my eyes - and it was really, I said to her, `My house was broken into my family was violated, I'm just trying to get my stuff back.' And this went on, we stood there for maybe 20 to 25 minutes with the secretary who wouldn't even connect us with somebody to talk to. She literally got up and walked away.''

Hummel: ``Because she didn't want to hear it anymore.''

Hewitt: ``Yes.''

Dalton: ``At about two weeks of not getting hold of  this person who runs the property room I finally asked for their boss and they directed me to a sergeant. I talked to him and he directed me to a detective that was in charge of the case. After another week of leaving him messages or so, he finally picked up the phone  and told me there was a different detective I had to get a hold of. And since then for about the last month I've been trying to get a hold of this person and haven't had  any response. ''

Hummel: ``So the Hummel Report contacted Deputy Chief Paul Kennedy last week - providing him with a timeline of the couple's unsuccessful attempts to make contact here. Within hours they received a call from the Providence Police - asking them to meet with a lieutenant at headquarters Monday to see if their items were here.''

But when they arrived, the desk sergeant couldn't locate the lieutenant - who it turns out was working a night shift - and they had to wait another 10 minutes before someone arrived.
Forty-five minutes later they emerged: the only item there? An IPod dock worth about $50.

They did not see the computer, camera, or jewelry.

Hewitt: ``They've had tons of people coming to poke through and look for their  stuff. What else has gone missing, has anything been misplaced? They said said some stuff got transferred to another police department. Maybe it's in Pawtucket. I'm still kind of feeling like we're getting the runaround a little bit.''

Major Steven Melaragno - who oversees the property room-  tells the Hummel Report the department quote ``dropped the ball'' and he plans to call the couple and apologize, at the same time putting safeguards in place to prevent this scenario from happening again.

Nina Hewitt says it's too little, too late.
Hewitt: ``If they had said to us at some point, or all along the way, `We don't have your stuff, this was a mistake. We're sorry you got a phone call that said we had your stuff. We don't have it.' Or just I'm so sorry this was a misunderstand. but with the attitude, to me they were angry I was there maybe they were hiding something, or I don't know. I hate to think that, but that's where my head goes. When for two plus months you try to chase down an answer and you don't get one.
In Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.

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