London·Video

Not-so-hidden camera catches 4 break-ins in same vehicle over 36 hours

A London, Ont., woman fed up with vehicle break-ins installed a motion-activated camera on her dash, and said she caught four different people over a 36-hour period.

'They don't care that they're on camera,' London woman says of men rummaging through her truck

Motion-activated camera captures 4 break-ins in 36 hours 1:12

A London, Ont., woman said a hidden camera she installed on the dashboard of her pickup truck caught four different people breaking into her vehicle over a 36-hour period. 

They don't care that they're on camera.- Michelle Kaplan

Michelle Kaplan became so fed up with people breaking into her vehicle at night that she installed a motion-activated camera on the dashboard in hopes it would catch a thief in the act.

Michelle Kaplan said she became so frustrated with people breaking into her truck, she installed a security camera to catch thieves in the act. (Michelle Kaplan/Facebook)

"For the entire time I've lived in my home, I've had difficulty with my vehicle being broken into," she said.

"We got a work truck this year and because there is an assumption of tools inside, I didn't want the windows broken, of course leaving the doors unlocked still invited people to look for change etcetera, so we installed a camera looking to catch people in action."

When a sensor picks up motion, it turns on a light and the camera starts recording. The device then pushes a notification to the user's phone, so they can see what's happening.

"Over the course of 36 hours, we had four people enter the vehicle," Kaplan said. 

"Unfortunately, the first three times I did not wake up to that notification," she said. "The fourth time I did and seeing his look of fear and getting out of there was kind of nice."

Since recording the images, Kaplan has shared them with police and on social media, racking up thousands of views. 

Petty thefts a widespread problem

It has also allowed Kaplan to hear from other Londoners, who have been dealing with similar problems in Old East Village, Woodfield and Old North.  

It's pretty amazing to watch how brazen people are.- Phil Squire

"Within all of those people are complaining on a regular basis, daily, double daily, triple daily about having things stolen from their properties, whether that be from their vehicles or backyards."

It's a problem that caught the attention of Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire, who has not only seen Kaplan's video recorded in nearby Woodfield, but has been fielding complaints from people in Old North for years.
London councillor Phil Squire believes vehicle break-ins and petty thefts from properties are widespread across the city. (City of London/YouTube)

"It's pretty amazing to watch how brazen people are," he said.

Squire said he believes the thefts aren't limited to neighbourhoods near the city's core. 

"Every area of the city is plagued by these kind of random thefts, and they're thefts of opportunity," Squire said. "If you leave something not tied down—and even in some cases if you do—people will steal it."

Since April, Squire has been holding neighbourhood meetings with residents, police and agencies such as neighbourhood watch, in order to better organize against would-be thieves.

Documenting thefts only way to get police response

George Iny from the Automobile Protection Association offers tips to make your vehicle less attractive to thieves looking to grab valuables. 0:26

Squire said it's important for neighbours to document crimes to get the attention and resources of police. 

"The police have a limited number of resources and they allocate additional resources to areas suffering from crime, really on the basis of numbers," he said. "The challenge has been that these thefts are so prevalent that people sometimes don't even report them.

"The problem with that is there's no evidence to support allocating more resources." 

Squire said police have told him that the problem has been relatively stable across the city and has not increased in any measurable way, but they would increase their patrols if they receive more complaints in a given neighbourhood. 

In most cases, the would-be thieves aren't looking to damage or steal a vehicle — they're just rummaging around for loose change or other items they can quickly sell for cash. 

Still, for Kaplan, she has stopped locking the doors for peace of mind. 

"It's not an issue of what they're taking. It's an issue of feeling very violated and, if we do leave a tool in there, they're going to take it." 

Kaplan believes people committing these thefts know what they're doing and act as if they won't get caught.

"We saw them casing the joint. They're driving around on bikes, they've got flashlights, they're surprisingly organized," she said. 

"They don't care that they're on camera." 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca