Watchdog: Roof Squad patrols for fraud in storm-ravaged Rowlett, Garland
By Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist (with Marina Trahan Martinez)
Not many people can say their dream came true in a week. But that’s what I watched happen Thursday as a team of police investigators I’ll call the Roof Squad traveled through tornado-ravaged Rowlett and stopped anybody who looked like a roofer.
The Roof Squad is made up of three men wearing POLICE on their shirts and carrying guns, badges and handcuffs.
They ask a lot of questions. Who are you with? Where are you from? Do you have a permit?
“Donde esta el jefe?” one squad member asked a group of roofers atop a house in Rowlett.
Where’s the boss?
Squad leader Lt. David Taylor gets the boss on the phone. Turns out his workers reroofing a house are doing so illegally. El jefe forgot to get a city permit.
Oops. It’s that easy.
A week ago, I announced my intention to push for a state license for roofers and contractors. As part of that, in my ideal world, there would be a Roof Squad. Yes — even in anti-regulation Texas. Corrupt industries deserve tough anti-corruption measures.
And for at least one week, my imaginary Roof Squad is suddenly real. Soon they’ll go back to chasing people who burn cars for insurance money. But this week, in Rowlett and Garland, these guys are doing the Lord’s work.
Who are they?
The Roof Squad was dreamed up in Austin three weeks ago by the Texas Department of Insurance. This is its first run.
That’s not its real name, but I like it better than the Texas Department of Insurance fraud unit.
There are a couple of dozen insurance fraud investigators for the state. Last year, TDI received 15,000 complaints. You do the math. Busy chaps.
The best part is that roofers are not the sharpest shingles in the box. They don’t realize as they are being interrogated by TDI police that the state insurance department has no regulatory authority over them.
Because roofers and contractors are not licensed in Texas, most need only a driver’s license and a customer to function. Skills and trustworthiness are optional
The bosses at TDI figured they’d put their guys out on the street and make a little noise. Show some presence. Show they care about protecting Texans. I like it.
“Better start walking that way,” the officer says.
Police thank the Roof Squad for the tip.
“We appreciate you,” an officer says.
The Roof Squad is only temporary, but for a week at least, it’s a watchdog fantasy come to life..