Local News

Durham Homeowner Takes 'Rear Window' Approach To Catch A Burglar

Posted November 1, 2000

— A Durham homeowner had a secret weapon to catch a thief. It was not a gun or even a dog but a videocamera.

For two days in a row, Jennifer Mitchell was ripped off. Two lawnmowers were stolen from her driveway. Fed up, she mounted a camera in a bedroom window. When the robbers came back for a third time, they were captured on videotape.

This time, the lawnmower was chained, and the robbers left empty-handed. Mitchell thought this would be an open-and-shut case, but when she contacted the Durham Police Department, she says they did not even want to look at the videotape.

"We asked them, 'Do you want to come in and see the videotape,' and they said, 'No, No. All we can do is fill out a report, and a detective will have to call you," she says.

That is when Jennifer contacted the Durham Sheriff's Office. In a matter of days, a detective located the suspect captured on videotape.

"I was able to interview the suspect, and he made an admission that he attempted to take and carry the lawnmower away," says Sgt. J. Davis of the Durham Sheriff's Office. "He had been to the residence before."

Mitchell says it was not so much the loss of the lawnmowers that bothered her, it was a matter of safety. She was worried the robbers might come back, and she would be unable to defend herself.

She says the police department sent her a message that they did not care.

"They are saying unless you break the law, you steal something over a certain amount of money or if you kill somebody, we are not going to worry about it," she says.

Officials from the Durham Police Department say they did what they were supposed to do. The department claimed Mitchell refused to hand over the videotape. Mitchell denies the allegations.

Ironically, Davis says it was two officers from the police department who helped him located the suspect.

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