Thief caught on camera, police use social network for block watch

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A thief is caught on camera stealing from a Phoenix neighborhood, and homeowners hope that video will lead to an arrest.

Patty Gii said she woke up at 5:30 Friday morning to find her garage door open, and her husband’s golf clubs and bike gone.

"Oh, I freaked out,” she said.

When she looked at the surveillance video, she saw a man drive by around 3:00 a.m. to scope out the area, then come back around 3:45 a.m. to take two thousand dollars' worth of golf clubs.

Then he came back yet another time with a truck to take a bike that wouldn’t fit in his car.

"It's just unfortunate that we're situated there right at the end of the street, so it was just prime pickings for this individual," she said.

The very visible camera right next to the garage doors did not even faze the thief. "I thought that was pretty bold," said Gii

She said she notified police and told her neighbors about the theft. "It's disconcerting, of course, because we feel like we have a safe neighborhood," said Bern Peterson, a neighbor.

"It angered me. It just seemed like such an unfair thing to do to think that he needed that bike more than the owner needed it," said Marilyn Sollenberger, another neighbor.

Gii said she had company over the night before, coming in and out, and she forgot to close the garage door. "You know we're human. Sometimes we forget. We have busy lives and a lot of things going on, so it's easy to forget sometimes," said Gii.

She wants her neighbors learn from her mistake. "Make sure everything is secure at night before you go to bed," said Gii. She hopes someone will recognize the man, so that he doesn't strike again.

Phoenix police said they're looking into this burglary. They are also working with the community through a social network website called to help develop a block watch for neighborhoods.

Phoenix police said they hope this partnership with helps them interact with neighbors, so they can crack down on thefts like the one that happened in this neighborhood.

"It is a resource that we will use to provide tips, provide information, and in this case hopefully remind people to really help them to prevent crime from occurring," said Sgt. Steve Martos with the Phoenix P.D.

The website markets itself as a secure way to get neighbors talking and keep their neighborhoods safe. They can send updates to each other and a feed pops up.

"It's really a virtual block watch, if you will," said Sgt. Martos.

Slade Grove said he uses it in his neighborhood. "The more and more that we started communicating, and the more communication that's coming out in where we are able to say this is a hotspot and this is a hotspot, Phoenix P.D. has been able to come in and help us stamp that out and eradicate a lot of the crime," said Grove.

Police hope it will help keep neighbor and law enforcement dialogue going. 465 neighborhood websites have already started in Phoenix and to join the network. Every neighbor needs to verify their home address to make sure they do live in that neighborhood.

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