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Series of Events
Tanya and Chuck Duhon
We checked into TownePlace Suites Marriot, 250 East Exchange Blvd, Columbia, SC 29209, at 4:33pm. The front desk clerk asked me what brought us to Columbia. I told him that we were in town as merchants for the Junior League Holiday Market held at the SC State Fairgrounds in Columbia. We unloaded our luggage and unpacked. We then made a trip to the nearby Walmart and returned to our hotel between 8 and 9:30pm. We parked near a light toward the front of the hotel, near the road (East Exchange Blvd) across several parking spots. Hotel cameras were visible along with a sign that stated “Security notice: Parking Lot under video surveillance”. We then locked up our truck, we pulled the pin for the trailer electronic brakes and left the locked up trailer attached to the truck. We then returned to our room for the night.
We exited the hotel at approximately 8:45am to find that our truck and trailer, with all its contents were missing from the parking lot. We then went back into the hotel to ask if our truck and trailer had been towed. The clerk at the front desk told us that no vehicles had not been towed. Tanya alerted the clerk at the front desk that our truck and trailer must have been stolen. Chuck immediately called 911 while the clerk went to the back to alert the hotel manager. The manager came out and told me that he would also call the police then returned to the back. Officer MPO McMillin from the Columbia Police Department arrived at 9:02am and took our statements. The manager stayed in the back while we met with the police. The officer then went into the hotel office to meet with the manager to check video footage. When he exited, he informed us that the hotel camera facing our vehicles, where the theft occurred, was not recording. The officer finished taking our statements and gave us a card with the case number 160037940. We did offer him a picture of the truck and trailer, but he declined it saying that it wasn’t necessary. He then left.
We went back inside the hotel. Without saying a word to us, the front desk clerk went straight to the back to get the hotel manager. He came out and we asked him if this sort of thing happened around here. He told us that there had never been an incident like this before. We also asked him about the camera. He had no explanation as to why the camera was not recording. He said that he was trying to contact technical support about the camera. We asked about a shuttle to the fairgrounds. He said that all he could offer us was cab fare to the fairgrounds. We decided to go back up to our room so we could figure out what to do. We discussed that we had a small amount of product being delivered to the hotel throughout the week which would force us to stay in Columbia and to stay at the hotel. We also decided that we needed to meet with the Junior League to inform them of what had happened and discuss possibilities of us participating in the show with only the inventory that was being shipped to the hotel. We rang the front desk and asked him to get us a cab. When the cab arrived, the clerk handed us a $20 bill and asked us to bring him back a receipt. When we returned that evening, a different clerk was at the front desk. We handed her the change and receipt for the cab and went on to our room for the night.
Chuck took 2 pictures of the parking lot at 8:50am. One of the location the truck was parked including the parking lot light pole and a sign posted on the light post stating ‘Security Notice: Parking lot under video surveillance’. The second picture shows two signs in the parking area directly in front of the entrance. The top sign states: ‘Notice: You are parking and leaving your vehicle at your own risk. Please lock all doors and windows after removing any property or valuables from the vehicle. The hotel will not, in any event, be liable for the loss or damage to your vehicle or property’. The bottom sign states: ‘Security Notice: Parking lot under video surveillance’.
A fellow merchant (Elicia Kessler) took it upon herself to contact Towneplace Suites and was able to get fees removed for the weeks stay at the hotel. Up to this point Towneplace had not offered us anything but cab fare to the SC Fairgrounds on the morning of the theft. Our credit card was still showing a pending charge for the weeks stay at this point.
We had heard from a couple of local customers that a few trailer thefts had been occurring in that area lately. Our Investigator assigned to our case had mentioned this as well. Tanya went to several hotels on the same street as our hotel asking about the thefts, but didn’t learn anything new. The rear of the Baymont Inn & Suites Columbia Fort Jackson faces the front parking lot of Towneplace Suites where the theft occurred, and Tanya was directed to contact the manager the following morning about checking for video footage that could help us.
Around 8am, we went down to the hotel front desk and told the clerk that we would like to speak with the manager. Until this point, we had no contact with him since the morning of the incident. When Mr. Rosenfeld emerged, we asked for a receipt showing that the charges for our stay were removed. He noted that he planned on removing the charges, but we told him nothing had been discussed with us and our credit cards still showed the charge pending.
We then discussed with him why the camera wasn’t recording. He told us that all of the cameras around the entire facility were on but not recording. Chuck asked if there was a light to provide a visual confirmation that the system is recording. The manager explained that there were no lights to confirm recording, and that power outages or a gust of wind would often cause the security footage to not record. We then asked when exactly did the cameras stop recording. He explained that the recordings were on a two week loop then overwritten, and that there was no recorded footage for the two week period. He further explained that not having any footage meant that the cameras were not recording for at least the entire two weeks leading up to the theft, and as a result he did not know how long the cameras were down other than a minimum of two weeks and no one had noticed it wasn’t recording. We then asked why the cameras had not been checked for two or more weeks. He stated that the only time they checked the cameras were when there was an issue and they were needed. Our comment to him was that we did need them and they were not recording.
Tanya contacts the manager at the Baymont Inn & Suites Columbia Fort Jackson about them possibly having video footage, and later calls back, but unfortunately their cameras do not face the area where the theft occurred. The manager from Baymont Inn asked about what the security officer for TownePlace Suites had to say. Tanya informed her that we were completely unaware that Towneplace Suites employed a security officer. She seemed positive they did, saying he had visited their hotel before. We found that it was odd that if this was true that
1) a security officer never met with us,
2) a security officer was never mentioned to us,
3) it seemed to us that a security officer’s duties would include regularly checking that the security devices, including cameras, were fully operational.
4) a two week or more time frame would be ample time to perform these duties
5) if there was an issue with the cameras regularly stopping recording after storms & power outages, wouldn’t it be a standard procedure for someone (security officer or otherwise) to check the camera after such events?
We checked out of the hotel at approximately 9:30am. Before leaving, Tanya took a picture of the sign posted in the hotel parking lot and took a short video of the parking lot.
During our drive back to Louisiana we were contacted by a man named William who was an insurance representative for Gallagher Bassett Claim Services (phone number – 508-948-3664) that handles the insurance for Townplace Suites. William informed us that although he was informed that we were not pleased that the security cameras were not recording, that they would not cover any of our lost property. We asked specific questions about why the cameras were out for a period of 2 weeks or longer, if Townplace Suites employed a security officer, & who owned the property. The rep stated that he HAD NOT spoken with the manager or anyone from Towneplace Suites, so he could not comment on any specifics, & that he did not know who owned the hotel. We were surprised by the second answer and asked how was it possible he did not know who was the owner of a policy he was calling us about. The rep basically said that this was how it worked for commercial property chains & that he would follow up with the hotel manager as to why the hotel cameras were not working.
We later found it odd that he knew we were unhappy about the cameras, but had not contacted the hotel staff. How did he get this information? Is it standard procedure to contact hotel customers about their lack of liability without contacting the hotel to find out about the specifics of what occurred from them first? We found this VERY odd.
Preparing this chain of events we realize we both took photos on different days and the signs stating: ‘Security Notice: Parking lot under video surveillance’ were apparently removed from the property sometime between the morning of Thursday December 1 and the morning of Sunday Dec 4th. The pic Tanya took shows the holes on the post where the sign was removed.
In 1971 J. Standard Baker Quoted " Drivers Towing Trailers Are Four (4) Times As Unsafe As Those In Cars Alone!
Trailer theft a big problem in SC: Law enforcement hope lawmakers will require registrationWSPA Published: November 10, 2015, 7:18 am.....And The Lawmakers Destroyed Our Attempt To Address.
Upstate law enforcement say trailer thefts are becoming a big problem! In spartanburg county alone last year more than 700 were taken. We checked with other local counties like Greenville and Anderson. They also see hundreds stolen every year.
But even when deputies find that property, there’s virtually no way to track down owner. That’s because the law doesn’t require registration.
Investigators we talked to are hoping 2016 is the year that will change.
All Jeff Stallings has to show for his $15,000 dollar trailer are the drag marks thieves left when they hauled it away last week.
“You don’t expect a trailer to be stolen, at least I didn’t. Of course we’ve since found out that it’s a very common occurrence,” said Stallings, the owner of The Mobile Attic.
Stallings was shocked to learn his is one of more than 11-hundred that have been stolen in the last two years in Spartanburg county alone.
“Ours was registered but the majority of them aren’t, and so there’s this culture in SC that it’s really easy to steal trailers because you’re just not going to get caught most likely,” said Stallings.
Sgt. Henry Beck with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office showed us more than a dozen sitting at the pound. The problem, he says, Carolina law requires no registration for most trailers, unless they’re commercial or campers.
“Because of the lack of a trailer registration law, citizens in our state are losing property that can never be recovered. And they’re also purchasing stolen property that are being brought in from other states,” said Sgt. Beck.
NC and Georgia both require trailer registration, as do most states in the nation. Two bills up for debate next year could change South Carolina law. State Representative Rita Allison says it’s too early to state her opinion, but she’s heard those opposed don’t want to the tax.
We asked her: “Do you think that the people who don’t support the registration don’t realize that it may help them in the end if their trailer goes missing.”
She said: “Well I think that this is something that as we have the debate will come out, But I can understand how it really puts a burden on law enforcement.”
Until a law is passes, one way to protect yourself is to write down and store the Vehicle Identification number. Also put a special marking on your trailer so that if it is stolen, you can put that on the Police report.
If anything, Stallings wants you to know right now, trailers are an easy target in South Carolina.
“If I can help somebody else from getting their trailer stolen, than that at least makes me feel a little bit better about their situation,” he said.
The reality is that the State of South Carolina is somewhat complicit in inflicting damage to these good hearted folk and budding entrepreneurs. South Carolina chooses not to title trailers meaning very few have license plates attached …. Or even a means for law enforcement officers to make effective inquiry of the various computerized lookouts / wants for stolen property. Think about it … as a Highway Patrolman on I-95 coming behind a utility trailer headed to a flea market in Florida to sell “stuff”, there is no method WHATSOEVER for that officer to make a computerized inquiry to establish reasonable cause which leads to probable cause and an arrest / recovery. YOU ALL hamstring law enforcement inflicting further harm on your residents.
They Stayed Here Memo Don't Stay At This Hotel If You Do Not Want Your Trailer Stolen Or Car Broke Into Click Here