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Macedonia police say privacy law leaves theft cases unsolved

Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 22:18:06-05

Police and crime victims are expressing concern about a federal law that is protecting crooks and preventing law enforcement from solving some crimes.

Macedonia police said they've been stymied on two cases, because federal and state government officials cannot release information on crooks who also use government assistance cards, known as EBT cards.

One of the victims is 70-year-old Caroyln Parks, of Bedford.

On February 22, Parks, who is on social security, went to the Macedonia Walmart and used her debit card to get a money order worth $900 so she could pay her rent.

However, Parks accidentally left the money order on a counter and left the store.

Surveillance video shows a woman in a yellow sweatshirt pick up the money order twice, cover it up with paperwork and then steal it.

"They're low-life. I couldn't with no good conscious, I couldn't just do that to nobody," Parks said.

After the theft, the woman was also caught on camera using her own EBT card to buy items from the store.

Officer Bryan Vince obtained that card number, but government officials can't reveal her name under privacy laws.

"I could easily solve this crime, get this female her money back, and I'm getting no cooperation at all," Vince said.

Last March, News 5 reported on a similar incident at the same Walmart.

A woman had her purse stolen. Again, the crook used her own EBT card at the store, but police requests for personal information on the card user were denied. The case remains unsolved.

"I can understand people having rights, but when you're doing something wrong and they know she committed a crime, I feel like bump that privacy. That shouldn't count," Parks said.

Macedonia officers said under the law they can only get information from government officials, such as a suspect's address, if cops already know the name of the card holder and have a subpoena or a warrant.

That doesn't help Vince, since he doesn't know the identity of the woman who stole from Parks.

"I think there's definitely a glitch there," Vince said.

Last year, Congressman David Joyce wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture expressing concern over this issue.

He pointed out that when presented with a search warrant, debit card companies are required to release to law enforcement the personal identification information for the card number associated with the crime in question.

"I respectfully request your office to evaluate the EBT program's privacy policy to formulate recommendations for enhanced and reasonable disclosure guidelines that mirror the level of protection for other debit card users," Joyce wrote.