How dad caught burglar who robbed him as he slept
IT WAS 2am and Steve Garland woke with a start to find his son Jason, 21, urgently trying to tell him something. He'd just spotted someone jumping over the fence and running away from the house.
Steve jumped out of bed, where his wife Annette was asleep, and ran to his home office. His $2500 Apple laptop and expensive torch were gone, and the computer was so new he hadn't yet got it insured.
The 46-year-old was "devastated" and "angry" at losing vital information on the laptop relating to his acreage mowing company. He was even more furious about the danger posed to his wife and son.
But Steve had an ace up his sleeve. As luck would have it, he had installed cameras in his office and outside his Sunshine Coast home just three weeks earlier.
"I checked the security cameras, and sure enough, he was caught on CCTV," Steve told news.com.au. "He was a bit of an idiot - he looked straight at the camera before he grabbed the laptop and bolted."
Steve called the police, who turned up around 11am to take fingerprints but couldn't find a great match. Still furious over the burglary, the business owner handed over the grainy footage of the intruder at the police station, but then came up with an even better idea. He put stills from the video on his local community Facebook page.
The intruder was tricky to identify because he was wearing a hat, but his tattoos were visible. "A few days later, I got an anonymous phone call from a woman who knew him," said Steve.
The story was picked up by his local newspaper and TV station. "A week after, they got a call with the address where he was, and now he's behind bars."
Police discovered the man was a drug user with a history of burglaries, who had stolen nine cars and filled the boots with other people's property. The items were returned to grateful families in the area and he was jailed for several years.
Sadly, Steve only got back his torch - the laptop appeared to have already been sold on, but he became a hero in his local community of Pacific Paradise.
He is pleased he was able to help protect the community, but says the terrifying experience has made him and his 49-year-old spouse far more cautious. "My wife, she's only 5ft 3in," he said. "If she had walked out there and startled him, anything could have happened.
"She was shocked, she couldn't stay at home on her own for months afterwards. She was really scared. She still is - she goes around locking windows."
Steve said he was particularly concerned since users of the popular drug meth can be abnormally strong while high.
"The fact you're laying in bed and get someone going through the house ... he could have come into the room, he could have been standing over us, looking for our wallets."
Steve has been advising all his neighbours to buy cameras, too, as the Christmas season in which he was robbed last year approaches again.
Research by Crime Stoppers, lock experts Lane Security and security solutions provider Cammy found that a home security upgrade is on the to-do list for 37 per cent of households. More than a third say they are not confident in their locks and worry their doors and windows make them an easy target for intruders. Most were primarily worried about their family's safety.
The report found some homeowners are putting their property at risk by relying on ineffective practices such as hiding valuables in drawers (29 per cent), in the freezer (6 per cent) or in the toilet tank (2 per cent), while others use "beware of the dog" signs (10 per cent), fake surveillance cameras (6 per cent) or fake alarm systems (8 per cent) to trick would-be crooks.