Homeowner catches burglars on camera

November 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
What used to be a very solitary crime, breaking and entering, is gaining an audience. 7 On Your Side caught up with some video vigilantes.

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Neighborhood watch has gone high tech and criminals are feeling the heat. Inexpensive video surveillance systems are changing the criminal world.

As the ABC7 News van arrived at the Barron's home in San Jose, every move was recorded.

"It is real time with this camera. It gives you the ability to know instantly what's going on," says Rick Barron.

Rick and Judy Barron installed their security system because of neighborhood foreclosures. Homes were abandoned and "riff-raff" were moving in.

"We were lucky enough that we got the camera and we saw the kids breaking into the house in the afternoon. The neighbors then converged and it was this 'Let's confront the kids and let them know we saw what was going on and it isn't going to continue and it didn't," says Judy.

The neighbor's incident was pretty dramatic, but not nearly as dramatic as another case where criminals kicked in the door of an Atlanta-area home. They stole the TV and made a clean get away.

"It was fear and panic and, you know, the moment you hope would never come, and there it was, right there in front of you," says Dan Kopp.

However, Dan and Elisa Kopp were not frozen by that fear; instead they posted their security video on YouTube hoping the thieves would be identified and they were -- fingered by video vigilantes.

There was even a second break in at the Kopps, a second YouTube posting, and another arrest.

"If I had my choice for my 15 minutes of fame, it would not be through this," says Elisa.

And it isn't just after the fact. Down in Florida near West Palm Beach, Jean Thomas was at her workplace checking her home's security system online when she saw thieves burglarizing home. She immediately called 911.

"He's walking next to my stereo. He's looking at my son's video games," said Thomas to the 911 operator. She begged the police "Oh God, please hurry. Please, hurry."

Police surround the place, the burglars figure out they're trapped, raise their hands and surrender to police who then secure the home.

"They think they can just come and take whatever they want to and get away with it. You know this time they didn't get away with it," says Thomas.

Back in the day a security system capable of internet access and video of a high quality would have cost a small fortune and been difficult to install, but no more.

"So this is where we installed the camera up there. It was easy to mount. We ran the cord over to there and it gets plugged in," says Judy.

The Barron's system took just a few minutes to set up and the cost was about $300 for the camera. The online monitoring is free. It is through the Logitech Digital Video System.

"There is no networking, there is no wires to run. You simply plug the receiver into an outlet, you position the camera and then you take the USB and plug it into your computer," says Logitech's product manager Kevin Brangan.

Logitech uses your home's electrical wiring to carry the signal. Your computer records the video and puts the signal on the internet for remote viewing. Among the acts caught on camera was a guy accused of stealing a newspaper and some guys TPing a house.

7 On Your Side checked with police departments in the three largest Bay Area cities and were told Oakland and San Francisco had no current investigations that relied on home videos, although Oakland had at least one in the past. San Jose police never returned ABC7's calls.

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