Neighborhood Watch In Action

by John Zutz

Booth Street block club members joined together to capture a burglar and turn him over to the police recently. At least five neighbors were involved in tracking and, after a brief chase, capturing the thief. The names used in this article have been changed to protect prospective witnesses. As this article is being written the housebreaker is cuffed in the back of a police van awaiting detectives. The quiet of the drizzly August day in Riverwest was shattered when Mrs. B, an upstairs tenant, heard glass breaking. She went to a window to see what was happening and saw an unknown person in the yard next door. The problem was the man saw her too. She was frightened, so she left the window and called a friend. The friend advised her to call the police. Mrs. B went to a different window and watched the man, wearing a distinctive blue and white striped shirt, enter the house next door through a broken basement window. Minutes later she watched as he moved tools out the back door of the house. Instead of calling the police, Mrs. B called her landlord, Jack (the Block Captain), who lives downstairs. He immediately called 911 and asked for help. Then he went upstairs to reassure Mrs. B. While looking out the same window, Jack saw the man come out of the back door with tools in his hands. Jack went back downstairs and out his front door to follow the burglar until the police arrived. He walked into the alley where the thief had loaded the tools into a green garbage cart and was walking up the alley. As the thief turned the corner, Jack walked through the houses to Booth Street where two squad cars were waiting for him. He gave the officers a brief description. Then he looked up Booth Street where he pointed out the burglar, who was just moving back into the alley with his garbage cart. Mr. P, a neighbor from across Booth Street saw the squads and came out onto his porch as the squads drove to catch the burglar. Jack told Mr. P about the burglar, and they were both standing on Booth Street when the burglar ran from between houses, crossed the street, and ran between other houses toward Holton Street. Mr. P tried to cut him off through the alley while Jack followed the burglar. The burglar made the mistake of running next to a house where two other neighbors, the H. brothers, were working on their garage. When the brothers heard Jack yelling at them about the burglar, they dropped their tools and helped Mr. P cut off his escape. Mr. P held the thief in a full nelson until the police arrived to apply the cuffs. “I was afraid,” Mrs. B said. “I’m still scared. I was too scared to call the cops – he saw me. I’m glad he’s in jail, and I’m thankful my neighbors were willing to go after him.” Jack, the Block Captain, was wearing a big smile. “I’ve said for years we were going to catch one [a thief] sooner or later,” he declared. “This was a prime example of neighbors watching out for each other and helping each other for self-protection. We all know the police can’t be everywhere, so we have to join with our neighbors to protect ourselves.” “I hope this sends a message to others who might think Riverwest is easy pickings,” Mr. P stated. “Not everyone is going to be able to capture a thief, we had a numerical advantage. If enough people work together great things can happen.” Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – issue 8 – September 2002