Community collaboration leads to successful public safety efforts

Thanks to a collaborative effort between Lakeland Community College and Laketran, the Lake County Prosecutor’s office was able to successfully prosecute a suspect in a string of catalytic converter thefts across Northeast Ohio that occurred in early 2022.

When a theft was reported on Lakeland’s campus, Lakeland police detective Dave Spotton was assigned to lead the investigation. Spotton quickly realized there may be some external assistance in the case.

Laketran has two shuttles that circulate the campus daily, operating the college’s Campus Loop route. These shuttles are equipped with external cameras, which proved to be invaluable in the investigation. In addition, information sharing between police departments across the region connected Spotton with detectives from John Carroll University’s Police Department and Kent State University’s Police Department, who were investigating similar thefts on their campuses.

“During an investigation, you utilize all the resources you have available to you. John Carroll and Kent had footage of the suspect’s vehicle, but the plate was not visible.” Spotton explained. “We were able to narrow down the time of the incidents on our campus and Laketran was able to review video footage from on board cameras. Their cameras captured a clear image of the suspect’s license plate.”

Spotton shared that after they had a plate number, all the pieces of the investigation came together – from the suspect’s name to the scrap yard the converters were being sold to. Through research and information sharing, Spotton had it all figured out.

“In cases like these, it is often very hard to identify a suspect,” shared Lakeland police chief Steve Gagliardi. “Through detective Spotton’s investigation and the video evidence provide by Laketran, we were not only able to successfully identify the suspect, but the prosecutor’s office recently informed us that the suspect pleaded guilty.”

“We have always said our operators are the eyes and ears of Lake County and in this case, we can say that quite literally. Given the frequency of our routes and the safety features we have installed on our buses, we are often contacted to assist with investigations,” said Laketran CEO Ben Capelle. “We are happy to be a resource for our safety forces across the county. Our mission to is serve the residents of Lake County and helping to keep our communities safe is an additional way to do that.”

Evidence collected by the Lakeland Police Department is currently being shared with John Carroll and Kent State with the hope of providing potential resolutions to their investigations as well.

Lakeland’s Police department regularly reminds students and staff of the “See Something, Say Something” initiative created by The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The campaign encourages people to both recognize and report signs of suspicious, illegal or harmful activity to law enforcement. It is one of the most vital ways everyone can contribute to keeping Lakeland a comfortable and safe environment for all.

“This case is the perfect example of the ‘See Something, Say Something’ initiative at work. Laketran’s operators were asked to keep a look out for any suspicious activity during their routes and thankfully our efforts were successful,” Gagliardi continued. “While our personnel and technology are fantastic at what they do, we can’t do it without community support. We are grateful that our campus community joins us in our efforts to keep Lakeland safe.”