To Catch A Thief On Video

Yesterday, Sunday, I was setting out at 8:30 in the morning to go to my sister’s house. She has recently had a back injury and I was going to help her to get ready so that she, her husband, and I could go to visit family in Monterey.

As I stepped out of the door of my condo, however, I saw that my neighbour’s storage locker door was open and there was clothing on the floor of the hallway.  I looked inside the locker and there were still several items there, but things were in disarray. Apparently, the owners had been robbed.

I went back into my apartment to find the phone number for the security company, and that’s when things started to go a little sideways. Perhaps I shouldn’t have assumed that the security company would help me on a matter of security.  After the phone had rung several times, the conversation went something like this:

He:  Hi. It’s Jim.
Me: Hello. Is this the security company?
He: Who is this?
Me: I’m calling from [Name] Condos in San Jose. My neighbour’s storage locker has been broken into.
He: Who are you?
Me: I’m Anne Price and I live in Apartment [Number] at [Name] Condos.
He: What’s happened? (I think he was just waking up.)
Me: My neighbour’s storage locker has been broken into.
He: Do you have a description of the perpetrator.
Me: No, I just walked out of my door and saw the locker door open.
He: You should call 911. We only do security there at night. We don’t work there in the daytime.
Me: (Exasperated) OK. Thanks.

At this point, I wasn’t sure what to do. I know that the local police don’t come out for minor incidents like this, and so it seemed like a waste of time to call them. I just wanted to be on my way, but I decided to leave a notice with the property management company before I left. Since it was a Sunday their offices were closed, but they have a 24/7 answering service.  I called and told the person there what had happened and, after clarifying that I live in San Jose and not Santa Fe, she assured me that she would pass the message on.

Sure enough, when I was on the way to my sister’s house, I got a call from someone at the property management company.  He wanted to understand the situation and I explained that the locker was not mine but belonged to my neighbour; he assured me he would contact the owner. “Good,” I thought. Someone is on the case.  I anticipated someone, anyone, now being aware of the problem and going to check out the security of the locker.

After I got to my sister’s house, it dawned on me that my Ring doorbell camera had probably recorded the event, and sure enough, it had.  I discovered a short video, taken at 12:55 AM of two young people in hoodies, walking bikes past my door and stopping opposite my neighbour’s door. They were in a darkened hallway, and I couldn’t see their faces, but I could clearly see them picking the lock of the storage locker.


The condo complex has a number of security cameras, so I expect that there are other images of these people wandering the hallways, but I thought I’d pass mine along anyway. I saved the video and tried to send a copy to the property management company, but I got an “undeliverable” message. Instead, I sent it to a friend who is on the board of the Home Owners’ Association. He received it without trouble and said he would forward it to the property managers.

Subsequently, it dawned on me that one of the bikes in the video might have belonged to my roommate who keeps her bike on our patio. I asked my friend if he would check to see if it was still there since I was not at home. It turned out that my friend wasn’t home, either. He was in Los Angeles but expected to be home in the afternoon. So, at this point, there were several people who care about and/or are responsible for security all being informed, having a video of the event, and intending to do something, but no-one—including myself– actually on site doing anything.

I decided that I had done what I could, more or less, and continued to have a really good day with my family.  I got home shortly after 9:00 PM and discovered that the locker was exactly as I had left it, with the door slightly open and clothing on the floor. I felt both amazed and a bit guilty. I should have closed it myself, but I thought someone in authority or ownership should see it first, and I left before that happened. So, belatedly, I shoved the clothes into the locker and shut the door.  I tried ringing my neighbour’s doorbell but got no answer.

Out of curiosity, I checked the doorbell camera videos for the day and saw several people coming and going past the open locker, and although some clearly turned their heads to note it, no-one actually did anything with the clothes or the door. They may have assumed the owner was in the process of removing their possessions, or that it was impolite to look into someone else’s locker, or that it was just none of their business.

I actually find some comfort in that.  Even though some ne’er-do-wells might creep about at night looking for things to steal, I know I can trust my neighbours to leave my stuff alone, even if it is unlocked in plain sight. Between us, we outnumber the bad guys, and we are more honest than they are. That is good to know. Oh, and you’ll also be glad to know that my roommate’s bike is still where it should be.

I don’t know what it takes to catch a thief these days, but having good neighbours and video evidence certainly helps.

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