iPhone outwits thief

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
phone
Photo: Maryke Penman

TIGHT NEIGHBOURS: Burglary victims Mervyn (left) and Anne McLean (second from left), with Bela Virag (centre), Petra Lipoth and Wendy Carswell (right) who helped to catch the burglar.

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The average person armed with a smartphone is becoming an effective crime fighting weapon, police say.

North Shore area commander Inspector Shanan Gray says it is getting more common for witnesses to send photos and videos to police when they lay a complaint.

"Most frontline staff now have iPhones and some have iPads.

"This allows them to view messages, emails, photos and use FaceTime when they are out on the beat.

"Anything that can help us to identify a criminal, and quickly, is really valuable," he says.

Constable Liddy Humm was able to arrest a burglar within minutes thanks to a photo taken by a neighbour on her mobile phone.

The man was attempting to make a getaway with around $8000 worth of jewellery stolen from a home when he was confronted by neighbours. Mother of two Petra Lipoth snapped a quick picture of the culprit on her cellphone and sent it to police.

Ms Humm tracked the young man to a property just 1.5km from the scene where he admitted to the burglary when she showed him the photo.

"Without that picture I don't think he would've admitted to it," she says.

The man, in his early 20s, then showed police where he had stashed the bounty in nearby bush and after a two-hour search they were able to return the valuables to the owners.

Burglary victims Mervyn and Anne McLean say the experience has restored their faith in police.

"Police haven't had a great name for catching burglars but this was just textbook," Mr McLean says.

The McLeans were on holiday in Tutukaka when their home was invaded.

"It sounds to us like a combination of things; a not very clever thief, an alert neighbourhood and a great police force," Mr McLean says.

"Apparently when the guy got into our house he was disappointed there were no expensive gadgets, just lots of books.

"It wasn't his lucky day," Mrs McLean says.

Neighbours Mrs Lipoth, Wendy Carswell and tradesman Bela Virag were presented with police awards on November 28 for their hand in the arrest.

"Soon there'll be no criminals, technology is certainly against them," Mrs McLean says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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