So I caught the guy who had been breaking into cars in my driveway, again and again back in April. No, it wasn't with the home surveillance system I set up (and still have yet to write up a How To on). My webcam did not have a separate IR filter like most do, and I'd been unsuccessful in getting it to be able to see anything in the dark, when the guy had been sneaking into the driveway. No, I've just been keeping my car locked and telling myself that I'll get around to getting up a night-vision camera set up.
I'll start at the beginning. Sunday, Lynn and I took our daughter out on the Wayne County Apple-tasting tour. Wayne County is kind of like the "rural farmland" in Monroe County's backyard, but has a lot of fruit orchards and wine vineyards due to the proximity of Lake Ontario, which provides a lot of moisture. It was a long but exciting day as we trekked across the county to visit various farm markets and vineyards (though we had to avoid more than a few sips of wine). We arrived home and collapsed in the house. An hour or so passed before Lynn realized she'd left her new Blackberry in the car, so I went out the back door to get it. That's when I met our thief. Read past the break for the full story.
It was about 8:30 in the evening. I stepped outside, and saw the new Nissan Versa owned by my upstairs neighbor Patrick (an Irish-born bartender, complete with brogue) parked only a dozen or so feet from the back door, right under a large spotlight that lights up the back door. The door was open, and someone was leaning into the car. At first, I thought it was Patrick. As I walked towards the car heading toward Lynn's car, a man suddenly ducked out of the car and stared at me, standing only a few strides away. It wasn't Patrick. He was a middle-aged African American man, maybe 45 or 50. He had on a thick padded jacket and baggy painter pants. He wore a cap, but it was dark enough that I had trouble telling the color... maybe green. He was about my height, around 6 foot, but it was hard to tell how much he weighed... the way his clothes hung on him, probably not a whole lot. But then, I'm not more than a buck thirty myself.
I stopped, and asked "...Can I help you?"
He glanced back in the car and reached for something, saying "I'm just getting my change."
I stepped forward. "This isn't your car..."
He looked back at me, obviously nervous. "It's my boy's car."
"Really... who is your boy," I said. He stepped away from the car as if he wanted to bolt past me down the driveway and replied, "my... he's my boy."
I took a step backwards down the driveway and motioned for him to follow me. "Why don't we go talk to 'your boy' then."
He followed me, but only because my back yard is fenced off with high fences and he had no other direction to go. The driveway is fairly narrow and has the side of our apartment and the next door neighbors on either side.
I said, "I don't think this is 'your boy's car'. I think you're looking for something to steal. Lets find out if Patrick knows who you are."
We had reached the sidewalk, and the front door to the house was on our right. He stepped to the left.
"You go get him then."
"No... if you're not coming with me, then I'm going to get the cops, that's what I'm going to do. And you know what? My car got broken into a few months ago in this driveway. A few weeks after that, my girlfriend's car got broken into. And you know what? I think you did it..."
He broke in, "no... not me, I wouldn't..."
I kept going, starting to back down the driveway. I'd left my cell in the house. "I think you've been coming down here and trying to steal from us every chance you've got. So you better start walking."
He turned and began sauntering down the sidewalk. I started to yell as I watched him go.
"No, you know what; START RUNNING. THE COPS ARE GOING TO BE COMING AND YOU BETTER NOT STICK AROUND F*CKER!"
(I know, I'm a tough guy now that he's walking away... :-p)
I started booking down the driveway and headed through the back door, yelling, "PATRICK! I NEED YOU TO COME DOWN HERE. I GOT SOMEONE BREAKING INTO YOUR CAR!"
I grabbed my phone (the new Epic 4G) and dialed 911, crashing back through the back door again and running back onto the street, intending to follow the guy while I called the police. But he was gone. He must have headed up someone's driveway or hid somewhere. I gave the operator my description of the guy, wishing I'd been able to keep him longer under the spotlight for a better view of his face. I was standing in the street as Patrick and his girlfriend Jen, came down. I gave them a short version of what happened and Jen looked up and down the street while Patrick went to see if anything had been taken.
Half an hour later the cops showed up. I was sitting in the house at that point with my ScannerRadio app running on my Epic, listening to the Monroe County Police. I'd only switched it on a couple minutes prior and hadn't heard anything interesting yet. I was still holding my phone when I answered the door. A young cop was on the porch with 2 others standing on the steps. He asked me if I'd called in regarding the attempted theft and I said I had.
The radio on the hip of one of the cops let out a burst of static and said something unintelligible, and a moment later my phone did the same. The cop looked at me in amazement and turned and looked at his buddy. "Whoa did you hear that?! He's listening to us on his phone!" The cop in the front turned to look at them. "Can you believe it?" the other guy said. The original guy laughed "I guess there really is "an app for that!" The first cop turned back to me. I was feeling kind of embarrassed at this point. "I provide tech support to the City of Chicago PD so normally I just use it for them," I lied, and shut down my phone rather than fiddle with killing the task. Patrick came down from upstairs and reported nothing had gone missing, fortunately.
I told them what happened and they told me they had already stopped someone who matched my description and said that they determined it wasn't the guy they were looking for. I told them that it was possible that he doubled back down the street in the other direction since I'd seen him head to the left out of my driveway. At least, that's what I would have done. They said they would look around for a bit and they headed out.
It was a nerve-wracking evening after that. Lynn's been frightened to go outside alone and has chastised me for confronting the guy. I just remember being so furious when I realized that this was the guy and that he's been so brazen as to try to steal from us while we were home and my daughter slept in the house right behind me.
So hopefully, he's not coming back. I'm torn between trying to get a night-vision camera set up in case he does, and just hoping that this is the end of it. We'll see...