Technology helped track a prolific thief in Sandy Springs.
Police believe Matthew Robert Brown, 34, may have unknown numbers of identity theft victims nationwide.
On July 9, a Ring doorbell camera recorded video of a porch pirate tiptoeing away with someone's package from a neighborhood near Peachtree Dunwoody Road. Another resident's package was stolen from a house a little over a mile away. The thief could be seen getting into a light-colored SUV and driving away.
The neighborhood had installed a Flock Safety tag reader camera, which captured the suspect’s vehicle and tag number.
Sandy Springs Police Sgt. Sam Worsham says police paired that information to have the Flock system send officers an alert if that license plate was captured on another camera.
Days later, it was.
Officers responded to an alert from a city Flock camera that the SUV was driving near Roswell Road and pulled Brown over on July 15. Brown gave police a phony ID, says Worsham. Officers figured out who he was, though, and found that he had outstanding warrants in Atlanta and in Fulton County for identify theft, fraud, and burglary.
"We did find in the vehicle eight credit cards with different names, 17 piece of mail with different names, drugs in the car," says Worsham. "We currently have him booked in Fulton County Jail on 34 warrants."
They had no way of immediately knowing that Brown was the person they'd been hunting in connection with a big ID theft case out of Michigan back in April.
Sandy Springs Police were contacted then by an American Express investigator who said a customer's credit card had been stolen and used online to buy a $59,000 piece of artwork that was shipped to an address in the city.
"The person had used a false name to obtain an apartment, and at the time that the officers and detectives started to catch up with him, had already been evicted," Worsham says.
An eagle-eyed investigator noticed that the name used to buy the SUV that Brown--the suspected package thief--was driving was the same as the name police had been given in the April probe.
"Officer Hunt noticed that the name was the same and put two and two together and said, 'Oh, this guy's kind of running an identity theft ring,'" Worsham says.
A search warrant at Brown's last known residence revealed a treasure trove of potential stolen identities.
"We have boxes and boxes of mail, [and] several possible credit cards in other people's name," says Worsham. "We are anticipating more and more victims coming forward and saying that they were also a victim of Mr. Brown's and that they've had their identities stolen and used."
Worsham says investigators would likely have caught up with Brown anyway, but that the camera technology gave them a big break--not only giving them a look at the suspect but at his vehicle--and helped it happen sooner.
"Using the camera system and the license plate readers, it's kind of a force multiplier. It's sort of like electronic surveillance," says Worsham, who adds that criminals may be less likely to strike if they suspect their actions may be captured on video in many different places.
"It's very helpful to us. It benefits the neighborhoods. It's kind of a good all-around technology. It may actually in the future begin to prevent crime because people know, 'I'm going to get caught.'"