PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Who wouldn’t want neighbors like these?
Residents of a cul-de-sac on Long Island foiled a burglary on Sunday by tackling the would-be thief.
Scott Ellis knew something wasn’t right.
“My neighbors weren’t home, and all of a sudden there was a cab in their driveway, which was really just kind of strange,” Ellis told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Monday.
Even stranger, a man was walking out of his neighbor’s Port Jefferson backyard carrying a safe.
“We just acted upon it and did what we had to do,” Ellis said. “We told the taxi not to go anywhere.”
Ellis and his Gladysz Way neighbors sprung into action.
“Someone called to say they saw someone in my backyard climbing like a retaining wall,” homeowner Frank Oliveto said.
The good Samaritan neighbors first alerted Oliveto, who was away for the weekend, that police were tracking two car thieves through his backyard. Then, hours later, when a taxi showed up, suspicious neighbors called 911, but also took matters into their own hands. They tackled the alleged burglar, who appeared to have called a cab as a getaway car.
One woman, who asked CBS2 not reveal her identity, said the neighbors knocked the thief to the ground and got on top of him.
“Literally on top of him. He wasn’t going anywhere and I also grabbed him by the neck, myself,” the woman said. “It’s just what you do and just hope someone is also watching out for you someday.”
They held 33-year-old Frank Beinlich until police arrived. A career criminal with prior burglaries, Beinlich claimed he was a cousin, but neighbors didn’t buy it.
“He’s like ‘Trust me, trust me,’ and I said, ‘We are not trusting you. You just broke into my neighbor’s house,'” Ellis said.
Now Oliveto has his safe and other valuables back.
“It’s pretty impressive. They are a great group of neighbors. We really appreciate it,” Oliveto said.
And police said alert neighbors are the key to safety.
“We usually would preach do not get involved. That’s situational. But they felt safe to do so and they had safety in numbers. I commend them for it,” Suffolk County Police Deputy Chief of Detectives Mathew Lewis said.
One of the good Samaritans did have a experience. He’s a retired cop and checked the suspect for a needles and weapons.
Oliveto said he is grateful for their courage and that no one got hurt.
Police do believe an earlier car theft is related to the house break-in. They are looking for a second suspect.