Saturday, July 24, 1999

Apartment burglar
captured on video

By Jaymes K. Song


For the past year, Sean Mercado noticed little things around his apartment were disappearing.

Everything from laundry money and jewelry to compact discs and food were vanishing every month.

He questioned his two young daughters, his friends and even himself about the whereabouts of his belongings. The most important stolen item was his wedding band.

"It's like losing your mind," said the 34-year-old former professional surfer.

In March, he noticed someone had gone into the unit at the Moanalua Hills Apartments. Laundry money, cookies and ice cream were missing but the stereo, television and video cassette recorder weren't touched.

"We were kind of ashamed to report it because it was just the little things," said Mercado's wife, Sonja.

Police were called, but couldn't come up with leads or any suspects.

So the Mercados decided they had to catch the thief for themselves. They purchased a small video camera for $500 and hid it in their living room.

When Sonja Mercado returned from work on Tuesday, she discovered more items missing. So she played back the tape and saw a teen-age boy climbing through their second-story window and burglarizing the home.

At one time, the boy stood directly in front of the camera and bumped into it.

"I literally froze up," she recalled. "I was shaking. I couldn't call police. I called (Sean) and told him he needed to come home right now."

The boy was related to some neighbors.

"I was ready to rage," said Sean Mercado. "I wanted to look for the kid."

But the Mercados instead called police and showed them the tape. The 16-year-old boy was arrested Thursday night when Sean saw him around the building. He was booked for first-degree burglary.

Sonja Mercado said she felt like a prisoner in her home when the boy was on the loose. She only left the apartment to go to work, and she avoided coming home alone.

The Mercados today said they were very pleased with the outcome, and the camera.

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