Cedar Rapids family uses surveillance video, social media to catch porch pirate

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Caught on camera and caught by police within hours.

CRPD arrested this woman on theft charges after home security video showed her taking packages from a porch in northeast Cedar Rapids. Photo date: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (KCRG-TV9)

That’s how one Cedar Rapids family, with the help of social media, caught an alleged “porch pirate” who swiped deliver packages from the front of their northeast side home late Wednesday.

Lindsay Houston says her family has a high quality outdoor security system that sends an alert to one of her electronic devices whenever anyone approaches the house.

So she knew a couple of packages were sitting on her porch waiting for her when she got off work.

But Houston says when she got home, there was nothing on her porch. So she checked the wireless camera system and saw a woman who pulled into her driveway shortly after 4:00 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, helped herself to a couple of packages and drove away.

But as Houston and her husband Levi called police to report the crime and give police a copy of the surveillance video she had another thought—put the pictures and video on social media and see if anyone recognized the thief.

Lindsay Houston says her post to Facebook got some reaction but things really took off when she sent a copy to KCRG TV9’s Facebook page.

Cedar Rapids Police spokesperson Greg Buelow says police took the crime report about 6:00 o’clock that evening. And by 8:00 o’clock, someone had seen the post and called police to provide a tip.

“The surveillance video is top notch quality. You can make out a lot of detail. You can make out an individual that gets out of a four door sedan, a Kia, you can make out the color that it’s a silver vehicle…a guy said I’m 100 percent sure this is who it is because I even recognized that’s the car that she drives all the time,” Buelow said.

Buelow said police went to the home of Amanda Bentley, 26, of Marion acting on that tip. Buelow says officers discovered the missing packages belonging to the Houston’s and other items belonging to at least two other victims.

Bentley was arrested and taken to the Linn County Jail and charged with three counts of 5th degree theft, a misdemeanor.

Lindsay Houston says the family heard earlier that police had a suspect in mind. But they were a bit surprised when an officer showed up still that evening to return the items stolen from their porch.

“I didn’t expect to get anything back I was hopeful but I didn’t expect her to get caught,” she said.

Police say people can help themselves by having packages delivered to stores or locations where someone can accept them.

But in the case of this Cedar Rapids family, having a high quality video system and turning to social media for tips early made all the difference.