- Published on Monday, 23 June 2003 20:56
- Written by Linda Taaffe - Town Crier Staff Writer
A local burglar who decided to make regular cash withdrawals from a Los Altos family's Queensbury Avenue home ended up in handcuffs June 17 following an elaborate sting.
Former neighborhood resident Troy Smith apparently discovered that an unlocked garage door provided easy access to the family's kitchen and to a flow of cash in a purse regularly left in the room unattended. The 20-year-old habitually began stopping by the house allegedly to steal cash from the woman's purse over the course of four months.
Police believe he could have burglarized the home as many as eight times, taking as much as $800 since March. Smith, who lives in Mountain View, admitted to police that he had taken cash from the home on several occasions. The family said he would sometimes hit the house twice in the same week, always late at night.
The family never suspected a stranger was breaking into their home.
He never took credit cards, the cell phone or car keys that were in the purse alongside the cash, family members said. The family puppy that sleeps in a bed in the kitchen never barked, they added.
"I just never did think it was a burglar. The funny thing is a (family member) said, 'Maybe it's a burglar.' I told her, 'Don't be silly,'" said one family member, who wished to remain anonymous.
The family said they would notice money missing as often as two to three times per week, but it took them a while to determine that it was happening late at night while they were asleep in the house.
The only reasonable explanation they could come up with was that someone in the family had been taking cash from the purse without asking.
The husband decided to set a trap. He purchased an infrared video camera June 15 and set it up on the kitchen counter at night. To the couple's surprise, when they checked the camera the following day the image revealed an unknown intruder removing the wallet from the purse.
"You could clearly see a guy walk in the door from the garage, take the wallet, disappear back into the garage for about 60 seconds and put the wallet back into the purse," the couple said. The couple said they believe Smith, whom they had never met, may have spotted the purse through the window while walking down the street and decided to try his luck at gaining access into the house.
The family had grown accustomed to leaving the garage and kitchen doors unlocked.
"We're so trusting living here. We didn't think anything bad would happen," family members said.
The following night the couple locked the door to the house and set up the video camera in the garage. Meanwhile, police installed a silent electronic alarm wired to the department.
The couple waited up until 1 a.m. About five minutes after they retired to the bedroom, they heard a car on their typically quiet street.
Smith had returned for more cash for the second night in a row. The camera set up in the garage signaled the couple's computer in the bedroom.
They called the police, but an unmarked car was already there.
Smith, unable to enter the now locked house, casually walked out of the garage, unaware that he had walked into a trap.
Police caught him in his car down the street.
His shoes had traces of a fluorescent powder that police had left on the floor as part of the trap.
He was booked into the San Jose Main Jail on two felony counts of burglary.