Webcam catches burglar: Latest tool in home security?

Footage from a webcam helped authorities in Fort Meyers, Fla., capture a suspect believed to have been responsible for a string of area burglaries.

Devon Carlson/The Christian Science Monitor
A small, LED webcam indicator light on July 9, 2015, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Last Saturday, a couple was able to put an end to a string of Fort Myers, Fla., burglaries after catching the suspect on video camera.

The couple was at their other home in Canada when they watched a man believed to be Thomas Hinton enter their home, and leave with their daughter’s purse and a $700 television, reported Florida-based News Press. The couple alerted the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, who was able to identify Mr. Hinton as the suspect wanted for a string of other Fort Myers burglaries.

Hinton was arrested, charged with burglary and grand theft and is scheduled for a hearing on October 5.

But this isn’t the first case of its kind. Webcams have actually stopped burglaries in multiple cases and helped police track down suspects.

In April, Sam Serna of Las Cruces, N.M., was on vacation in Hawaii when he was alerted via text of motion in front of his cameras. Three burglars, one of which was identified as the son of Mr. Serna’s housekeeper, stole two guns, a sword, and his wife’s jewelry, reported the local KFox14.

Thanks to the webcam, Serna was able to notify the Las Cruces police, who arrested the three suspects and collected the stolen items. Like Hinton, these suspects were believed to be responsible for a string of other burglaries committed in the surrounding areas and on the campus of New Mexico State University.

In another case last year, a Philadelphia woman watched via webcam as two uninvited guests entered her Deerfield Beach, Fla., apartment. The two burglars left with an empty safe and the security camera, but homeowner Joan Possiel had the camera footage on her phone and was able to contact Deerfield law enforcement and file a report.

In Tempe, Ariz., last December, a homeowner alerted local police after she watched an unknown man in her house through her webcam at work. Officers were able to respond immediately and arrest the man who, again, may have been connected to other crimes, reported ABC15.

Webcams are becoming increasingly paramount in solving criminal acts. Discrete webcams like the Canary, which launched in late March, allow homeowners to monitor activity remotely through their smartphones, without burglars noticing the device is a webcam. Canary reports that its camera device has caught at least 30 serious incidents on video from alleged burglaries to caretaker abuse and arson in the first months since its release, reports Time.

With technology as advanced as it is, webcams and associated smartphone apps can help law enforcement maintain safer neighborhoods by identifying suspects and providing police with real-time intelligence when situations arise.

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