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Shutting the door on thieves: Porch cams becoming useful resource for residents and police

(WRIC) -- As we head into the holiday season, many of you are turning to a high-tech way to keep an eye on your deliveries.   

Those doorbell surveillance cameras are expected to be hot sellers this year. It's an extra set of eyes that's capturing all kinds of things, from stolen packages and vandals to peeping toms and even car crashes.  

"I love it," says Paul Witten, who's had his Ring doorbell camera on his front door for just over a year. He likes that its activated by motion and instantly begins recording.    

"You never know what goes on when you're not here" he explained. 

The idea behind Ring is pretty simple: It's the early warning for your porch or your front yard. By the time someone has gotten up on your porch -- even before they press the button, -- you can see who they are and what they're doing. 

The camera's owner can see what's happening right on their cell phone, even if they aren't home. Which is what happened to Paul Witten when his mail got delivered on the very first day he installed his camera.  

"I see her, she's about halfway across the yard," he explains, showing 8News the footage. "They called it 'air mail' when it got picked up on social media. She just chucked it. It rolls up on the porch and bounces off the front door here."

Witten shared the video with neighbors using the built-in app and posted the video online. It quickly went viral and ended up being shown around the globe .

The package full of pet meds survived the throw. Amazingly, so did the postal worker. 

"My understanding that there was an investigation," Witten said. "The postal inspector came out.  To this date, a year later, she is still on my route delivering mail."

8News reached out to the post office. Officials wouldn't comment on this employee, but say mishandling packages is unacceptable and doesn't reflect the hard work of thousands of dedicated carriers on the street.  

"They were looking in the windows, casing the house, saying 'no one can here,'" says Kim Jones.  

It was April of 2016 that fitness instruction Kim Jones realized a package full of workout gear she had ordered was missing. So, she went back through her ring video and found when it was delivered.

The doorbell cam capturing two teenage girls, carrying bins and doing door-to-door sales. It shows one of the teens knocking the package to the ground and putting it in a bin. 

"I called police," Jones said. "They took a copy of the video."  

The video clip solved the crime.  

According to Chesterfield Police, detectives identified a 14-year-old girl on the video and filed a juvenile criminal complaint for petty larceny.   

Area police are seeing more and more cases like this, where home security systems are capturing crimes or suspects often, its the videos and images that are making the case.

"It's a big helps to us," says Lt. Edward Capriglione "It's helping us solve all kind of property crimes, involving package thefts, larcenies from cars."

Sometimes, they're helping capture images of cars and people leaving the scenes of other crimes nearby, and helping police solve those cases too.  

"As they're sharing them on their neighborhood sites" continues Lt. Capriglone "If they'd reach out to the police department and share them to us.  Even if a crime doesn't occur, we'd like to have that video to see if we can tie it to other crimes."

Thieves, listen up: Forget big brother watching. It's probably the neighbors! 

WEB EXTRA: How easy are porch surveillance cams to install?

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