Home security smartphone apps foil burglar in Roseville

Kennis Ray Littleton Jr.
Kennis Ray Littleton Jr.

Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 3, a woman in Kansas sipped her coffee and caught up on the news.

As she was scanning the day’s headlines on her smartphone, Susan received a notification from one of her applications—something, or someone, had tripped a motion sensor at her Roseville home, hundreds of miles away.

This had happened before, but only ever at 2 a.m., caused by the scurrying of a mouse.

Curious as to what had set off the motion sensor, Susan opened another app on her phone. In a matter of seconds, Susan was watching a live feed of her home, transmitted from an old iPhone plugged into a clock charging station and pointed directly at her front door.

She had expected to see that pesky mouse, or at worst, a water leak from a frozen pipe.

At first glance, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. But after studying the scene for a moment, she noticed the door was ajar, and a black bag was sitting on a nearby table.

Seconds later, an unfamiliar man came into view, and she realized her home had been broken into. That’s when Susan called the police.

Suspect apprehended by K-9

Of course, Susan was a long ways from home at the time, and calling 911 would have connected her to local authorities, not Roseville police. So she called Roseville City Hall and was transferred to the police department, which then transferred her call to dispatchers.

“’The homeowner was watching the video, telling dispatch, ‘He’s just about to leave!’” Roseville police Lt. Lorne Rosand said.

Within minutes of receiving Susan’s call, “almost the entire day shift” of Roseville squad cars descended upon the home in the 1400 block of Glen Hill Road West and set up a perimeter, backed up by a St. Paul K-9 unit, Rosand said.

They observed a black Ford Windstar van in the driveway, which Susan said she did not recognize as belonging to anyone she knew.

Footprints in the fresh snow leading to the van led police to believe the suspect, later identified as Kennis Ray Littleton Jr., 31, of St. Paul, was hiding in the van, which was confirmed by the K-9 unit.

After Littleton reportedly refused to surrender, the police dog was sent in, and he was apprehended. He had dog bites on his arms and legs, and was treated for his injuries before being booked at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center.

Loose change leads to arrest

After executing a search warrant on the van, Rosand says police were able to recover Susan’s belongings, which included a safe, jewelry and a jar of change.

“The most valuable thing [the burglar] took was the jar of change,” Susan told the Review, estimating the suspect was inside her home for 14 minutes. “And he spilled some of [the coins] as he was leaving.”

The two minutes he spent picking up the loose change was likely the reason police were able to catch him before he got away, Susan said.

According to the complaint drafted by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, in a post-Miranda interview, Littleton allegedly told investigators he had chosen the home at random before declining to answer any further questions.

Littleton faces a felony second-degree burglary charge, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine, or both. He is currently on probation for a 2014 robbery conviction, and has “a history of theft-related crimes,” according to the complaint.

‘Hey, get out of my house’

Susan said she has been snowbirding in Kansas for the past nine years, but disillusioned by the high costs of some home security systems, she began looking into other options in October 2014.

In her search, she discovered SmartThings, a company that sells open source home security products. She purchased two motion sensors and downloaded the free app, next purchasing the Cloud Baby Monitor app for $3.99. The baby monitor allowed her to convert any Apple product into a live feed video camera. All told, she estimates she spent about $200 on all the equipment.

“I did not expect to catch a burglar,” she said. “I always say I live in the safest neighborhood in the Twin Cities. I’ve never experienced any crime.”

The Cloud Baby Monitor also has functions that allow the user to talk or play lullabies through the phone, as well as listen in on what’s going on.

“I tried to say, ‘Hey, get out of my house,’ or play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’ but it didn’t work [the phone was in the clock charger],” Susan said. “But I’m glad it didn’t, otherwise he would’ve been scared away.”

Citizen-police collaboration

“It’s just an amazing thing that you get burgled and you grin about it all day,” Susan told the Review. “I can’t commend the Roseville Police Department enough. I think so highly of them.”

For the police department, Rosand said, “It’s the first time that our agency has encountered this kind of an app, which resulted in the apprehension of a pretty bad person. This is not someone who made a bad decision that day; he made bad decisions his whole life.”

All in all, Rosand and Susan say the apprehension of the suspect was a great example of partnership between citizens and law enforcement.

“I was able to let [police] know fast enough to get there, but I wasn’t taking matters into my own hands either,” Susan said. “It was collaborative.”

Rosand said being able to relay real-time information about the suspect’s location to dispatch perhaps allowed Susan to “not feel like a victim.”

“She actually felt that she was helping the department,” Rosand said. “Hats off to Susan for everything.”

The 24-hour non-emergency number for the Roseville Police Department is 651-767-0640.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

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