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Serial Burglar Caught on Webcam 561

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-what-you're-doing dept.
Metatron writes "The BBC is reporting about a serial burlgar caught after images recorded by a webcam were automatically emailed to an outside server. The evidence was made available to the police even though the computer itself had been stolen! This is also discussed on the victims own web site and the local newspaper in Cambridge." From the article: "I was relieved it did what I'd intended it to when I was burgled again. It was nice to catch him in the act - but it didn't stop him from stealing my things."
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Serial Burglar Caught on Webcam

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  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:10AM (#11699326) Homepage
    For those that don't RTFA, the burgler broke into his flat on Feb 4th, 2005 ... and was sentenced 11 days later on Feb 15; the Brit's don't mess around!

    Note that the Slashdot "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along." certainly doesn't apply here ...

    P.S. Here's my lighthearted "webcam" pictures of a man who vandelized my christmas lights snowman ;-) [komar.org]

    • the burgler broke into his flat on Feb 4th, 2005 ... and was sentenced 11 days later on Feb 15; the Brit's don't mess around!

      If the US Court System had a case with similar evidence, I doubt it would take them more than a couple of weeks, either. This is for two reasons: Our system of law borrows heavily from the English system; and this is purely a case of burglary. It is not something complex, like corporate fraud.

    • by R.Caley (126968) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:21AM (#11699486)
      For those that don't RTFA, the burgler broke into his flat on Feb 4th, 2005 ... and was sentenced 11 days later on Feb 15; the Brit's don't mess around!

      The guy plead guilty, so the whole thing would have been shoved through fast by agreement with both sides.

      For stats nerds: the average is 66 days [dca.gov.uk], 57 for non-jury cases.

    • 11 months??? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yog (19073)
      He had over 13 previous convictions for theft and this time, caught red handed, he got a whole 11 months. I would say, fast justice is not as good as fair justice. This idiot should be put away for a few years at least.

      11 months is practically a slap on the wrist.

      Anyway, I want that guy's webcam software. ;)

    • It is not a question of messing or not messing around.

      1. The burglar did not have a decent lawyer and was a prime example of genuine stupidity

      2. I suspect that the victim did not have his cameras registered and signposted according to the data protection act and the rules for applying it. Now, it was the guy private residence so there is a question if the rules apply, but IANAL so I would rather not get there. I strongly suspect that the defence did not take any advantage of the fact and if it took and pr
      • by pe1rxq (141710) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:55AM (#11699907) Homepage Journal
        3. The interesting bit here is that the system used is likely to have been GNU Motion (which means the machine running linux). He even left the thing running in debug mode where it shows the rectangle where the motion was picked up.


        I never really intended that as a debug mode...
        I added the rectangle to be able to quickly see in a frame what caused the events.
        But some might consider that debug info :)

        Jeroen
    • by magarity (164372) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:36AM (#11699690)
      the Brit's don't mess around!

      Yes, they do. The criminal in question was out on bail when committing this robbery and had 13 priors. For this, he gets all of 11 months? WTF, that's a pansy slap on the wrist for such a serial criminal.
      • The criminal in question was out on bail when committing this robbery and had 13 priors. For this, he gets all of 11 months?

        Given he was 19, most of the priors were presumably when he was legally a child.

        Not that I'm saying that should have limited his sentence, but I suspect that is what did so.

        I do wonder what he will get when the earlier offence he was on bail for comes up, assuming he is found guilty.

        What tickles me is how he was dressed. It's the modern equivalent of a stripy jersey and a bag l

  • At least (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    he did not undress
  • He got me (Score:5, Funny)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:11AM (#11699342) Homepage Journal
    I was a victim of a Serial burglar once. I didn't have breakfast for four months because of him... /*rimshot*/
  • by garcia (6573) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:12AM (#11699360) Homepage
    It doesn't say a whole lot (and the victim agrees) when a serial burglar who had been imprisoned for burglary before and who was out on bail for yet another attempt only gets 11 months in prison.

    At 19 years old with several prior convictions and now this and they think that it will rehabilitate him to stick him in prison for another year?

    Glad that this guy was able to quickly solve his case (sad that he had to pay the price once before years ago) and get this guy behind bars but I'm sure it won't stop someone else from being burglarized by this guy again. :(
    • I'm sure it won't stop someone else from being burglarized by this guy again. :(
      What then? 2 years? 5? Off with his head? Whatt is going to rehabilitate him?
      • I'm pretty sure "off with his head" would prevent further burglaries. It just might also prevent other things while you're at it.
      • What then? 2 years? 5? Off with his head? Whatt is going to rehabilitate him?

        An ass-kicking.

        Oh wait. That's not civilized.

        Being civilized means the uncivilized get to walk all over us.

        Perhaps Ward Churchill [frontpagemag.com] can help us understand why Mr Grisby deserved to be robbed.

      • by cliffski (65094) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:28AM (#11699571) Homepage
        don't forget on average he will serve only half his sentence. So even if he factors in the odd 8 months inside (full bed and board) given breaking into houses or a minimum wage job hes probably behaving rationally.
        Given the threat of 5 years seriously hard labour in prison with no TV, no radio, nothing but basic food water and a cell would he be as likely to break in again? I know I wouldn't.
        • don't forget on average he will serve only half his sentence.

          Somehow I doubt that someone who got 33 convictions by 19 will manage to keep his nose clean in jail and get full remission for good behaviour.

          This guy is not only antisocial, he is stupid when he is being antisocial and gets caught a lot.

      • by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:29AM (#11699585) Journal
        Whatt is going to rehabilitate him?

        I do agree with your sentiment on this issue. But, in this case:

        Police eventually tracked down Park, who has 33 previous convictions of theft, to Kingsway Flats in Cambridge where he tried to escape by climbing over the balcony on February 10.

        The guy has 33 convictions. Is there a point where rehabilitations can even work?

      • Well, speaking from a country which has even less sentences for crime:

        The only thing that can rehabilitate him is the desire to change.

        Far too many here are so busy "rushing" them back to society, only to find out that when they do get out, they go back in the old habits regardless of the choices. Why? There was no punishment the last time. There's a path of lawfulness and a path of crime, and all the did was bring you back to the crossroad. It doesn't help that prison is basicly a decent hotel, except
      • Whatt is going to rehabilitate him?

        Nothing.

        I think that there are some people who are effectively a lost cause and barring some form of 'Clockwork Orange' style reprogramming being developed, should not be allowed out in society unguided.

        I am not advocating '3 strikes and you get life in prison'. What I think is that there should be some form of structured, guarded communities set up that serial offenders are sent to live in.

        Instead of cells, inmates would live in flats and would be required to pay ren
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:15AM (#11699401)
      "burglarized"

      burgled.

      The word you are looking for is burgled.

      There is no such word as burglarized.

      A burglar burgles.
    • How many years would rehabilitate him, you believe? 2? 4? 10? life?

    • Yeah, but when's the last time sending someone to jail meant actual attempts at rehabilitating those kinds of criminal tendencies (in this case, burglary)? Just throwing someone in jail isn't going to make them "wise up" or whatever. Without actually attempting to make changes, we won't see any.
    • Repeated crimes should be treated completely differently than first-time offenders.

      People who have already been given four or five chances to reform, but still commit violent crimes have shown that they will NOT reform.

      Such criminals can screw up the lives of a hundred other people, and then they are let go and go on and hurt a dozen more before they get caught - is this acceptable ?

      There is a need to protect the innocent from them - so they must be permanently isolated from society. The only options are
    • Yep, I think we in the UK need something like the "three strikes" policy which I think happens in the US. Once an offender has been imprisoned more than once for an offence, and demonstrated that a short sentence is no deterrent for him/her, there needs to be some greater sanction automatically applied.
      • Many of us in the U.S. are opposed to the "three strikes" rule. Typically, a person convicted of a violent crime for the 3rd time, gets life. And it's not uncommon that those on their 3rd chance will go to drastic measures (up to and including murder) to prevent themselves from being caught again.
        • From what I hear, that's the case in South Africa - famous for carjacking. Now they kill the driver rather than just take the car. The logic being if getting caught either way will lead to life behind bars, why not kill the witnesses?
    • It doesn't say a whole lot (and the victim agrees) when a serial burglar who had been imprisoned for burglary before and who was out on bail for yet another attempt only gets 11 months in prison.

      At 19 years old with several prior convictions and now this and they think that it will rehabilitate him to stick him in prison for another year?


      Oh don't worry, he'll only need to serve half his sentence if he behaves himself in prison, as the government have started an Early Release Program for Prisoners to rel [mirror.co.uk]
    • They probably have sentencing guidelines they have to follow like they do in the US. He only had two prior convictions for burglary (which can be for as little as stealing a bike) and I would assume they ratchet up the sentences with each conviction. I don't think they are concerned with rehabilitation just like they don't bother with it here (and we pay for this attitude when they get out and become recidivists). If he does this again he may be in for an extended "vacation".

      The fact is that the years a
  • by Traegorn (856071) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:12AM (#11699365) Homepage Journal
    Note to self: Next time, wear a mask.
  • infos ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirko (198274) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:13AM (#11699368) Journal
    could we have some more info about his setup, including the cost, ease of installation... whatever he'd need to have the pics automatically posted to one of these googlemail (at least the GB of storage could be justified) accounts ?
    • Re:infos ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skye16 (685048)
      I'm actually not so sure it was emailed. At the beginning, in the article, they state a few times over that it was mailed to an address.

      Down at the bottom, where it says how he did it, it says "That program instructs the computer to grab photos from the video camera - up to five stills per second - and then send them over the internet to a webpage where they are stored for viewing. " They may not be emailed at all - this just might be some stupid journalist (or journalist dumbing things down for the stu
    • For people who are looking for a package solution: LinkSys Wireless-G Internet Video Camera [linksys.com] a mere $299.99 CDN in a recent FutureShop ad. (Remember to secure your WiFi net.)
  • Chav (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:13AM (#11699372)
    Baseball cap, thuggish look, awful clothes. Screams thieving chav. Where's the burberry?
  • by weave (48069) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:14AM (#11699374) Journal
    Evocam [evological.com] is a great piece of software, and cheap. Allows you to define different zones on the image to trigger different actions, like upload pictures via ftp or email, its own streaming webcam software on an internal webpage, and other neat fun.

    I have mine record movements while out as well as speak "Intruder alert, intruder alert" hoping to scare any would-be burglers away while snapping their photo.

    Hopefully it will never be "needed."

    A great use for the new Mac Mini too!

  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:15AM (#11699397) Homepage
    The victim, Duncan Grisby, is the developer of the excellent omniORB [sourceforge.net] CORBA ORB.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:16AM (#11699409) Journal
    "The webcam made our job really easy," added DS Page. "It was a pleasure to show him the pictures and see his expression when we interviewed him."

    If only they had a camera...
  • "but it didn't stop him from stealing my things."

    What is the point of a secret weapon if you don't tell everyone about it?!
  • That's it, I'm turning off all my RS-232 ports RIGHT NOW!
  • He posted it on cam.misc and it seemed to spread from there...
    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/cam.misc/msg/0 239a9bdae854818 [google.com]
  • Aha!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:26AM (#11699555) Homepage
    So that's the bastard that has been stealing the toys and surprises from my cereal... oh wait... serial? Crap... always get those mixed up.
  • ive done this before (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmckay87 (832093) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:27AM (#11699559)
    this has happened to me before... sort of. a few years ago when i was 16 or so, i knew i was going to be bored later in the day at school, so i setup my webcam to record movement with a copy of meloris melcam i downloaded off the internet. I didn't notice anything wrong while I was watching it at school, but when I returned to my room I noticed I was missing about $50. The maids that my mom hired for that day had just come to our house, so I suspected them. I checked the video that my program had saved on my HD and there they were. They went and found my wallet which was in my dresser and removed the $50 I had been saving, right in front of the camera. Apparently they arent the brightest of people as the camera was clearly visible and my computer isnt too much quieter than a jet.
    • About three years ago, my brother had a roomie that he suspected was vandalising some of my brother's property. Of course, because they had a dog that was allowed to roam through the entire house, my brother couldn't prove that it had been the roomie and not the dog, becuase all of the destruction was well within the realm of a dog's capabilities. So he set up a webcam on his computer to start recording when there was motion in the room, and then storing the video on his web server. This allowed him to c
  • An Apple Store was recently broken in to Pittsburgh PA.

    The whole incident was caught on iSight webcams and used as evidence.

    I recently helped with a setup of a system using an iSight Camera and a Blue and White G3 to help catch who was stealing laptops and other items out of the fridge at a local university.

    Read the story here
  • I'm not so lucky... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:29AM (#11699580) Journal
    Had my webcam(s) going, my alarm went off (with armed response in tow) AND I have the vehicle registration number. All this I gave on a CD (silver platter) to the South African Police, and they still managed to bungle it!

    Stories like this only sound cool when someone paid attention...
  • by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:31AM (#11699613)
    http://www.lavrsen.dk/twiki/bin/view/Motion/WebHom e [lavrsen.dk]

    I used to do this exact same thing (but after having the house broken into once first)

    I think it was around 1998 when I first started using motion, still do. Have set it up in a few office spaces for non-profits.

    Not trolling, but this is not new.
  • SmartWater - a clear liquid containing microscopic particles encoded with a unique forensic signature that, when found coated on stolen property, provides a precise trace back to the owner and, when detected on a suspect, can conclusively implicate a felon. It's big with the UK police. Check out this [wired.com] article on Wired [slashdot.org]
    • Yeah, the UK Schools that I work for use it. From what I've seen it's not "clear", though, it leaves horrible browny-red smudges over whatever you dab it on which you can't remove unless you file it off somehow.

      Horrible for personal use (stained the printers and computers I saw it used it), expensive, easy to see and therefore remove. I wouldn't know where you would stand on warranty etc. if you daubed this stuff on something that you later needed to return.
    • 1. Pick up "smart water"
      2. Break into someone's house and spray his stuff with it
      3. Walk over to the cops and request a search warrant
      4. Have the stuff delivered to your house at HIS cost.
      5. Sit back and laugh as he's led to jail
      6. Profit?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    WIth most creative webcams, you get a piece of software called creative web cam monitor. This can automatically record video or take pictures every X seconds when it detects >X amount of movement in a user defined area of its field of vision. It can upload via FTP or email the resulting files (if you upload via FTP it can generate a html page with activity log + pictures/video), or just send a notification message. It can even play alarm noises! :-) As it only sends pictures/videos with movement on, spac
  • This man could be in a lot of trouble - the correct legal response to a burglar over here is to give him all your possessions and ask him not so sue you.
  • by Monkey Angst (577685) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:41AM (#11699753) Homepage
    Are serial burglars faster than the old parallel burglars?
    • Not as fast as Universal Serial Burglars or Small Computer Serial Intruders. They only steal small ones though. But really, really fast.
  • You'd have thought that a hacker would have released the pictures under a Creative Commons licence, but then perhaps he has to pay the glazier.
  • I've been using.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonym1ty (534715) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @11:49AM (#11699817) Homepage Journal

    I've been using Home Watcher [homewatcher.com] on the Windows side for years doing this. It's kind of a nice program for playing around with webcam surveillance for the not not too serious user. It does allow you to upload the images to a personal website and the pay-for version has even more options.

    Yes I have caught intruders with it.

    I'm not sure I'd use it in mission-critical settings, but for home use and a little playing around it's kind of fun to mess with.

  • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @12:01PM (#11700052) Homepage Journal
    I really wouldn't mind setting up something like this in my new house. Perhaps adding one other feature would be nice however. I was thinking I could put a speaker over the doorway to the computer room, and when the computer detects motion it shouts "Don't move or I'll shoot!" I figure the images of the burglar peeing his pants might make me feel less sad about having my house broken into.
  • Techical info (Score:5, Informative)

    by duncangrisby (860318) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @12:02PM (#11700072)
    It was my camera and my flat that was broken into. Here are a few more technical details.

    The camera is just a generic video camera with a composite output. It's connected to a BT-848 video capture card in a Linux PC. I then use motion [sourceforge.net] to detect motion and capture images. I then have some Python scripts I wrote that upload the captured images to an FTP server.

    I'm afraid I had to block access to my server from Slashdot. I don't have enough bandwidth for the onslaught.

    Duncan.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @12:10PM (#11700223)
    Didn't realise that computers were quite *that* exciting to burglers!
  • Stripy top (Score:5, Funny)

    by willm5 (592275) <will&willmcgugan,com> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @12:36PM (#11700689) Homepage
    Did anyone notice he had a stripy top on? What do you suppose happened to his mask, and bag with 'swag' written on it?
  • by 955301 (209856) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @12:51PM (#11700943) Journal
    I'm working on this for my Sager 4760, which has a built in video camera at the top of the border around the display.

    It's a z-star branded chip with a pb0330 sensor, Someone recently wrote a driver which supports it: the spca50x module

    So I installed this, installed camorama to test it and mvc-0.8.9 to perform the monitoring. I'm still working on toggling it properly when xscreensaver-command is called and sending the files to another system/ftp site, but it's very promising.

    This is the last piece of hardware on this machine in want of a proper linux driver (save the ati radeon chip).

    The point is, it's not hard to set this type of thing up, and it's a fun project to work on with an instant gratification factor. If you have time and have to leave your systems in an open environment sometimes, it's a great project.

    Nice to see such a thing in action!

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