Surveillance videos of nonprofit theft now providing police with info for charges

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Debbie Perkins began her Tuesday morning trailing a U-Haul truck across three cities. It’s one that she’d seen often on surveillance video as officials with the United Board of Missions attempt to curb theft at the office on 9th Avenue as well as Mission’s Attic in Groves.

The U-Haul stopped in the parking lot of a Nederland church, as did Perkins.

That’s when the driver confronted the UMB executive director.

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“I told her I thought I was following someone else,” Perkins said. “I apologized and told her I’d make a phone call to get it straightened out.”

But in reality, Perkins was gathering the license plate numbers and other identifying information from the truck and accompanying vehicles.

When she returned to the UMB office, a detective was there gathering information about the ongoing thefts to submit to the district attorney’s office.

And while he was there, a man pulled up and began loading his vehicle with donations.

It was explained to the man that the items were not there to take, and he unloaded his vehicle, Perkins said. However, charges will still be filed.

“I feel like we’re going to have some success here,” she said. “Both police departments are building cases with our videos that we’re collecting and sending to them. It has been determined if it’s a 501(c)3, it automatically bumps the class on the charge no matter the level.”

Often people drop donations off at the 9th Avenue and Twin City Highway buildings, which are then sold at Mission’s Attic as a fundraiser for the nonprofit that provides food, clothing and other items for those in need.

However, theft of donations left overnight has gotten worse.

Perkins said only about 10 percent of donated items are actually received.

Earlier this month officials began sharing surveillance videos of the thefts on social media in an attempt to obtain identification information.

“People are providing names from both places,” Perkins said.

Program Director Jay Keith said one woman identified herself, asking the video be removed because she owns a business. Keith said the woman claimed to have been taking items to help homeless people.

“She has guaranteed us she will not come back and we will never see her again,” he told Port Arthur Newsmedia. “I encouraged her to come learn what our program was about. And if she knows people in need, send them to us. That’s why our program exists.”