Prankster convinces employees to vandalize businesses

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – He’s convincing. A prankster has been able to talk employees into vandalizing their own businesses. Now, police are investigating.

It’s happened at least twice now. Managers say their employees were pretty upset. While they say they’re working to trace these phone calls, police say it’s going to be tough to find the person responsible.

It was close to 2:30 in the morning when the woman who worked the front desk at the Econo Lodge on Carlisle heard the fire alarm go off.

Motel management say they have protocol for shutting off false alarms. They say the woman was half-way through the process when she got a phone call from a man claiming to be with AFD.

He told her there was a problem with the sensor and she needed to break out the windows to turn off the alarm. Yet, once she put a flashlight through the glass, the man called back.

He told her she had been pranked.

“Breaking out the windows of your restaurant or hotel or any other business is not proper procedure for turning off an alarm,” says APD Officer Tanner Tixier.

Yet, it didn’t stop another employee at the Red Roof Inn on Candelaria from breaking out one of their windows when they got a similar call overnight.

“The crime we have is basically false reports, which is causing a false fire alarm. The way the statute’s written, and I was looking into this. It doesn’t appear we can charge someone for impersonating a firefighter because they are not, quote unquote, a peace officer,” explains Tixier.

Tixier says, depending on how much damage there is, the man could also be charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

“The problem with that is, for that to happen, the damage has to be over $1000 or a felony level. There’s no conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor in the state of New Mexico. As just disconcerting as these charges are, we’re just looking at misdemeanors at this time,” Tixier said.

And, in the scheme of things, it is low on the list of priorities for police. Plus, he says it can be hard to track the call. It’s why they’re urging people to think twice.

“If you think something is suspicious and you don’t see an immediate danger, call the police department, call the fire department to verify,” Tixier says.

Tixier says when someone pulls a fire alarm, there’s always the possibility that someone will get trampled or hurt. In that case, the false report would become a felony.

There have been a series of prank calls, very similar to these, posted to YouTube recently. Police say, right now, they’re not sure whether it’s the same man.

AFD offered the following tips for business owners:

1. AFD dispatch is notified by the alarm company or someone calling 911 and then we respond. We don’t normally contact the business and notify them of the alarm activation.

2. The only instructions our dispatch center would give to the business owner is to evacuate quickly and safely. We wouldn’t ask the business owner to damage property unless a life safety hazard was present.

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