It's not often that police can solve a crime before the victim even knows it happened, but one neighborhood watchman with surveillance cameras helped catch a car thief within an hour.
According to police, the crook has been plaguing south Minneapolis lately -- but when he jiggled a couple of door handles in the alley behind Jim Fiala's house in Uptown, he didn't know he was being watched.
Fiala's surveillance cameras recorded the man as he got into a neighbor's car just before 2 a.m. on Monday morning.
"I called her back and I said I got him! Haha!" Fiala told FOX 9 News.
On the video, the suspect can be seen rummaging through the victim's parked car before walking away with some change and her camera bag.
"She's somewhat of a semi-professional photographer, and it's a $2,000, single-lens, reflex camera plus the flash and the other stuff," Fiala said. "She had a 16-gig SD card with probably 1,000 pictures on it of wedding she had shot, vacation pictures and so on.--and that stuff is irreplaceable."
Sgt Scott Downing recognized the suspect from Jim's high-definition video immediately. Later that same night, another officer stopped the suspect with an hour of the theft and confiscated the stolen camera before the car owner even knew anything was missing.
"Best advice I can give to people: If you don't want people to eat the cookies, don't put them in a clear cookie car, if you know what I'm saying," Downing said.
Apparently, the suspect had just been released from jail after being arrested in a similar crime three days earlier. He is also wanted by two other police departments.
"His activities are reviewed by us on a daily basis. We most certainly would have made the connection --most likely. However, these surveillance photos that were given to us literally led to an immediate recognition of the suspect," Downing said.
The suspect has not been formally charged yet, but police expect felony charges to be filed soon and they hope it will keep him off the streets for awhile.
The car owner said she was in tears when she got all her stuff back Thursday morning.
"It was like a too-good-to-be-true situation. It was the most surprising thing of my life," Christina Igoe told FOX 9 News. "It's just really nice that people do such nice things for each other without any expectation of anything."
Fiala says he's happy to help. In fact, he's been keeping an eye on his block for 15 years and has no plans to stop anytime soon.