Caught in the Act! How One Police Agency Is Apprehending the Hard-to-Catch Property Thief with Electronic Stakeouts

Two men pull into the fitness center parking lot. Unlike most people there, they are not looking to improve their physical health and well-being, but to prey upon trusting individuals who are trying to fit in a quick workout after a long day at work. The vultures have gloves on their hands and porcelain chips in their pockets. The license plate of their vehicle is covered by a paper dealership plate, making it more difficult for police to identify them should a witness happen to see the crime they are about to commit. They slowly scour the parking lot looking for vehicles that contain items they can easily steal to fuel their criminal lifestyle. As they drive by a row of cars, they spot a target worthy of a closer look.

A Toyota Matrix with a shopping bag on the dashboard is parked in a space hidden from view through the gym windows. The driver positions his vehicle directly next to the Matrix, and the passenger exits to obtain a closer look. As the passenger inspects the Matrix, he sees a blanket on the front seat that appears to cover a laptop computer. He can even see a small strap of what he suspects to be a woman’s purse protruding out of a portion of the blanket. In his mind, he pictures using the credit cards to replenish the empty fuel tank in his car and then examining the laptop for any personal data that he can use to commit identity theft. After retrieving personal data and any other valuable information on the computer, he and his partner will no doubt be able to trade it for heroin or methamphetamine.