Civil v. criminal, when should you turn to law enforcement for help?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Lamonte Gray ran away from our cameras after getting released from jail and after an arraignment earlier this week.

The 43-year-old was arrested and charged with felony theft after Angel Shotwell told police Gray sold her a salvage car.

"He`s swindling people out of their money," Shotwell said.

Shotwell's accusations are just the latest in a long string of Gray.

And after seeing our story, other customers reached out to WREG, saying they too, tried to file a police report, but were told it was a civil matter.

So how do you know the difference and when to turn to police?

"That`s a good question and unfortunately, sometimes it`s a very fine line between what is civil and what is criminal and even a lot of uniformed police officers have problems distinguishing which is which," Lieutenant David Sloan is with the Economic Crimes Bureau at the Memphis Police Department said.

He says in general if you're in business with someone disputes will probably lean toward the civil side.

On the other hand.

"If this is a transaction that you`re meeting the person for for the very first time, you don`t have a personal relationship with them, you`re buying something from them, and they don`t deliver at all what they promised or it`s some type of, you`ve been deceived, tricked, those more fall into the criminal manner," Lieutenant Sloan said.

Lieutenant Sloan says if you do feel it's a crime, keep plenty of documentation to share with police.

If police won't fill out a report, ask for them to take what's called a "memo" instead.

"It`s not an official police report, but at least they can document a lot of the facts that you say is going on," Lieutenant Sloan said.

If you're in one of these situations police say when it doubt call 545-cops or better yet, walk into your nearest precinct and ask to file or report or have them fill out one of those memos.