Although Dilworth residents have been the target of a rash of thefts from cars in recent weeks, say Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials, one victim has fought back, helping police regain his property through the use of technology.
Bruce W. Fritch, who lives in an uptown condo, was visiting friends near Dilworth Road and Lexington Avenue near Coventry Presbyterian Church when his briefcase was stolen from the trunk of his unlocked car in late December.
He lost an expensive briefcase containing his passport, iPad and leather case, and a Smart Pen with several Smart Pen journals. A Smart Pen records everything you write and hear onto special paper, features a small hard drive and data can be downloaded directly to a computer.
While the theft happened in mid-evening, he had his belongings back by 8 a.m. the following morning, according to Officer J.R. Gilliland of the Providence Division. Although, Dilworth-area police have seen crime decrease last year, the first few weeks of January saw “a spike” in crime with no real pattern, Gilliland said.
CMPD issued recently a Dilworth area crime alert, noting a “marked increase” in larceny from autos during the past two weeks. The alert noted the crimes were spread throughout the neighborhood, mainly on the perimeter, at night with unlocked cars.
“It happened sometime between 6:45 and 9:45 p.m. while we were eating and preparing to go to a movie,” said Fritch, who works as a consultant to business executives and CEOs. “I had never experienced anything like this.”
Fritch did not discover the robbery until about midnight when he opened his trunk to find his briefcase gone. He noticed that when he clicked his car key lock mechanism, his car did not lock nor did his lights flash – the mechanism’s battery was dead. He was also concerned the briefcase might contain his laptop or that perhaps he had left the briefcase at home. After checking and finding his briefcase was not at home and his laptop was safe, he called the CMPD.
By the time police arrived, Fritch had made a list of missing items and serial numbers, estimating a loss of about $2,500 to $3,000.
“I figured my property was gone,” he said. “I was just looking to report the crime and report it to my insurance.”
Fritch looked to his iPhone and an application he had installed called “Find My iPhone.” What he didn’t realize was the Apple software applied to all of his other Apple devices, and that he had the feature turned on the stolen iPad.
“When the police arrived I gave them all the information about the theft information but said, ‘Hey let me tell you what I’ve discovered,’ ” he said. “Here’s my iPad at the beginning of West Boulevard. I could see it on a map. I could actually zero in to see that there were seven houses on the block and that it was the fourth house from the end of the block.”
Officer J. Gompers, one of the responding offers, said he would investigate, according to Fritch. He radioed to his partner Officer S. Lehew and asked Fritch to press the button on the application that emits a loud sound from the device you are tracking. He radioed that he could hear the sound coming from inside the house.
Fritch said eight officers responded and entered the home, finding his stolen property along with other stolen goods. Five people were arrested. By 5 a.m. he had everything back but his briefcase, with his passport secreted in a pocket. At 8 a.m., police notified him that they had found his briefcase hanging on a clothesline in the backyard of the raided home.
“This is a case where the technology worked like it should and helped solve a crime,” said Gilliland. “It is very accurate. They found the stolen items in the first house they searched. It isn’t always that easy.”
Gilliland urged Dilworth area residents to remove all laptops, iPads, firearms and other valuables from their vehicles.
“Car breakdowns are mostly preventable. People go around checking car doors and after 10 to 20 cars, they will find that briefcase or laptop or phone. It’s a crime of opportunity. Remember, every time they find something, it keeps them coming back for more.”
The police officer also noted that robbers will also look for white iPod charging cords in cars. “They stand out in a dark car, and thieves think there might be more.”
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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