BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Ring doorbell cameras have proven to be a great asset to criminal investigations across the Rio Grande Valley.
In recent weeks, detectives in Starr, Cameron and Hidalgo Counties have been aided by the doorbell footage in criminal and civil cases.
Most recently, authorities in Starr County posted screen shots from a door bell camera showing a man invading a home after ringing the doorbell, while hiding a gun beneath a pizza delivery box. The next day, authorities announced an arrest in the case.
However, the use of door bell footage to aid that investigation is far from unusual.
In Brownsville, police Investigator Martin Sandoval told ValleyCentral the footage comes in handy when trying to piece together the order of events in criminal cases.
“[Ring cameras] have been a great asset to law enforcement simply because a lot of times these cameras will tell us exactly what happened when people are actually telling us what they remember at that time,” said Sandoval, who serves as the Brownsville Police Department’s public information officer. “Especially when it’s a traumatic event, a lot of people will not tell you the sequence of events as they happen.”
The Brownsville investigator said victims are likely to give law enforcement bits and pieces of information, not because they are lying but because the trauma of the events they have endured can cloud timelines in their heads.
“But with these camera systems, we actually see everything firsthand,” Sandoval said.
Doorbell and security camera footage used by police usually supports investigations of auto thefts or home burglaries, Sandoval said.
On Nov. 11, a doorbell camera helped solve a case in just hours, resulting in the Brownsville police’s arrest of a man for the offense of burglary of a motor vehicle. At about 5:47 a.m. that day, a neighbor’s camera captured a suspect entering an unlocked vehicle at the 1500 block of Hayes Street. It was an hour after that the owner released someone had broken into his car.
In this case, the camera footage resulted in an arrest within three hours, Sandoval said, because he was able to watch the video and recognized the man on the video.
“When I saw the footage, I was like, I know that person,” Sandoval said. “Once the name was given, the burglary division went over to the person’s residence and arrested him, and he was still wearing the same clothes he was [wearing] in the burglary that just occurred a couple of hours before.”
In McAllen, a woman allegedly made a false statement to police on Nov. 7, after police received a call from someone claiming a woman was being held against her will by her boyfriend.
According to an offense report from McAllen PD, the woman told police her boyfriend was not allowing her to leave his parent’s home. However, doorbell camera footage from the man’s residence revealed more to the story: It showed the woman willingly coming into the home with her hands full of shopping bags and leaving with her boyfriend earlier that day to go out to eat.
She had told police, before they reviewed the camera footage, that “each time she attempted to gather her belongings to leave, [her boyfriend] would forcefully grab her by the arm and tell her she was not going anywhere,” the report stated.
Police spoke with the boyfriend who said the woman was free to come and go from his residence as she pleased. He told police he even offered to order her an uber so that she could go back home, the report indicated.
Despite being confronted by police with the camera evidence that corroborated her boyfriend’s story, the woman continued to tell police he was keeping her there against her will and told police it was her mother who called the police, not her, according to the report.
Police arrested her on a charge of making a false report to a peace officer. Her bond was set at $1,000, records show.
On Nov. 17 a doorbell camera showed someone holding a pizza box and handgun forcing his way into a home in Starr Couty.
In this video, the gunman knocked on the front door several times while holding a pizza box. When a resident opened the door, the man pushed the resident inside the home and a struggle began. Several rounds were discharged during the struggle, authorities said.
“Several other individuals entered the home and tied his wrists together with zip ties,” a post from the Starr County Sheriff’s Office stated.
Video revealed that one of the suspects was wearing light blue jeans, a blue striped polo shirt, a light grey jacket, and a red or orange ski mask. Authorities urged anyone with information on the identities of the suspects to contact the Starr County Sheriff’s Office at (956) 487-5571.
After news of the home invasion and doorbell footage spread, a suspect was arrested in the case, a 17-year-old was charged with burglary with intent to commit a felony and engaging in organized criminal activity.
That case remains under investigation as deputies continue their work to identify other suspects.