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CBS 2 Exclusive: Neighbor Steps In After String Of Package Thefts On UWS

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Surveillance cameras captured a man stealing packages seconds after a delivery on the Upper West Side, and one neighbor decided he had to take action.

As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported exclusively Thursday, the suspect was spotted on surveillance video in an elevator in the building on 76th Street back on Feb. 2. He was weighed down with what police said were bags of stolen loot.

The video shows him taking one more box off a table in the library. People cannot always be home to get packages in person, and police said the suspect knows it.

“We had a big problem here,” said resident Connie Bryne.

The incident seen in the video was the beginning of a three-month theft spree. A total of 15 packages were stolen on just one block of 76th Street – which prompted neighbor Joe Bolanos to become a one-man neighborhood watch.

Sitting out on his stoop, he studied everyone like a hawk. Finally, Bolanos noticed a man he thought seemed shady — dropping off locksmith business cards in the front doors of buildings.

“As he’s going into the building, I notice he has the same blue backpack, but it’s flat, so it’s empty,” Bolanos said. “The perp came out of the building, and now his backpack is full and sagging.”

Bolanos called police, and an officer was right around the corner. When the suspect tried to break free, Bolanos and several other neighbors helped out.

“He was struggling to avoid getting handcuffed,” Bolanos said. “We put him down on the ground and we subdued him.”

Bolanos took photos of the suspect before he was taken away by police. Investigators could not immediately confirm that the suspect who was arrested was the same man from the February video, with a different haircut.

Detectives said when they looked in the suspect’s backpack, they found burglary tools and stolen property.

“It was just by perfect alignment of events that we caught him,” Bolanos said.

Neighbors and postal workers were pleased.

“He’s our savior,” Bryne said.

“It’s good that the citizen helped out,” said U.S. Postal worker Terry Calvary.

Bolanos said the lesson is to get to know your neighbors and get involved.

Police said the suspect was playing the odds, never sure what he was getting. Among the stolen items were guitar strings and make up.

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