Austin police officers turn tables on domestic violence offenders
AUSTIN, Texas - Austin police are turning the tables on domestic violence offenders. They are essentially stalking the stalker. As FOX 7's Noelle Newton shows in Crimewatch, their efforts are putting the power back in the hands of victims.
Austin police are re-tracing the footsteps of a man who they say is preying on a 17-year-old girl. There is blood on her bedroom window where he recently attempted to get inside.
"The screen was removed. The power was shut off as if they were trying to disable the alarm," said Officer Justin Miller. "It's a pretty rough case."
If he comes back he'll be on camera.
The officers of APD's new CRASH, or Coordinated Response to Abuse for Safe Homes Unit goes after repeat domestic violence offenders. They have begun installing game cameras in hopes of catching offenders who stalk their victims.
"It's just more proof that we have in court when this case goes to court and it's easier to articulate on a warrant and it there's no question and doubt that hey we have officers on scene that witnessed you go to this location and we have photos," said Miller.
The case involving the 17-year-old is particularly disturbing. For a year the man has followed her to and from school. He also sent her parents a letter threatening to sexually assault and kill her.
They are terrified he will follow through.
"I cannot stop thinking about what is going on. I am so afraid for the safety of my daughter," said the victim's mother. "The constant stress to make sure that my daughter will be safe walking to the bus stop every single day is too much."
"We identified who he is. We have all of his vehicles identified. It's just a matter of time until we have to do more surveillance on him and try to build that case," said Miller.
Unfortunately, the officers can't stay. Another victim needs their help.
"I look over my shoulder going to work, coming home, and I don't go out after dark," said a stalking victim.
The woman says she is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend.
"He has sent me over 300 emails and texts. He drives by endlessly, all night. It just never ends, never," she said.
She shows officers where he has urinated on her garage. Officers say this is common as offenders do it in a way of marking their territory.
Officers place a camera in her tree.
"We will be here every day, we'll come out and check the batteries and we'll replace the SD card in it," said Miller. "We will review every single one. So even if there are 6,000 images, we will review every single one of them to make sure yes this is him or nothing happened. We will do that until one he's either arrested or two he stops."
Two days after officers set up the camera, they had the suspect in custody.
Officers say they caught him driving by the victim's home with his lights off. A taser was in the front seat as well as two bottles full of urine. He was charged with the 3rd degree felony of stalking.
Officers got lucky that time, but they know they can't always be there.
"It's very hard to leave the victim alone because you do want to be with them 24/7 you want officers there because that's why we're here. We're here to serve and protect and we want to protect people," said Miller.
The cameras can do what officers can't.
Officers say it's only a matter of time before the teen's stalker is caught because two can play this game.
"We're always watching," said Miller.
In 2014, 126 stalking cases were reported to APD. 3,757 harassment cases were reported.
However, CRASH unit officers feel some of those harassment cases are misclassified. So the unit is working to make sure all stalking cases get the proper attention they deserve.