Smartphone app helps homeowner catch burglar in Phoenix

PHOENIX - A vigilant Phoenix homeowner and a popular community smartphone app are responsible for putting a burglar behind bars.

Jered Van Houten and his wife were in the process of putting their home on the market when a person broke into their home on Wednesday.

The man was caught on video surveillance and Van Houten posted it to YouTube and the Nextdoor app to warn his neighbors — but also in hopes that someone would recognize the brazen thief.

Three days after posting it on Nextdoor, Houten got a hit and the suspect was arrested.

Nextdoor is described as a "private social network for your neighborhood" on its website. A spokesperson told ABC15 that there are more than 3,000 in the Valley and more than 650 neighborhoods in Phoenix.

Here’s a breakdown of what was captured on video:

  • The burglar approaches the house and steals mail
  • The man jumps over a shed into the backyard and breaks the security light with a crowbar
  • The man is seen attempting to steal a power saw and break through the door before accidentally triggering the alarm and leaving before police arrive at the home
  • About an hour-and-a-half later, the man returns to the home wearing different clothing and is able to break open the lockbox holding the house key. However, he was unable to get inside because of magnetic locks on the door.
  • The man left and returned again with a crowbar and breaks the back door. He sets off another alarm and returns soon after gaining entry.

After posting the video online, a neighbor who lives just blocks away from Van Houten’s home recognized the suspect and was able to identify the burglar for authorities.

A typical burglar is in a home anywhere from three to five minutes, according to the Gilbert Police Department. 

If you're anticipating a vacation this summer, multiple Valley police departments offer a "vacation watch program" which allows residents to request police patrol while they're away.

Vickie Faber with Gilbert Police's Crime Prevention Unit says the program is something a resident can sign up for at least a week prior to a trip.

Faber also offered safety tips for homeowners to avoid burglaries:

  • Notify a friend, relative or trusted neighbor that you'll be away and leave emergency phone numbers with them in case they need to reach you.
  • Be sure all of your doors, windows and gates are locked when you leave.
  • Manually lock your garage door from the inside and disengage your electronic device, this eliminates the possibility of thieves entering with garage door decoders.
  • Be sure to stop your mail and your newspaper deliveries or have a friend, relative or trusted neighbor bring it in for you daily.
  • Put a couple of indoor lights and your radio on a light timer - this gives the illusion someone is home.
  • Arrange for someone to take care of your lawn while you're away.
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