Thomas Payne only stepped out for about half an hour to run errands, but that proved to be enough time for misfortune to hit.

Upon returning home, he noticed the door to his garage was open, which he specifically remembered closing before he left.

If that wasn’t unsettling enough, Payne then saw a man run inside his house as he was pulling into the garage.

Payne thought on his feet: He remained calm, stayed in his car, and called the police on his cell phone.

While waiting in his car for police to arrive, a witness saw three males run from the front of Payne’s house carrying objects under their arms. A black car was also seen leaving the area, which was believed to have been involved in the crime.

How the suspects entered the house is still unknown, but Payne assumes they got in through the garage door.

“They stole a television set from our bedroom and a jewelry box that had all my wife’s jewelry inside,” Payne says.

None of Payne’s belongings have been recovered, but he says he’s just happy nobody was hurt.

Dallas Police Sgt. Mike Nonnenmacher of the North Central Patrol Division says it’s always upsetting to have your property stolen, but there is a few ways to increase the chances of recovering it.

“If your valuables have special marks on them, that makes it much easier for stolen items to be recovered,” he says. “And if you have the serial numbers to your property, that helps, too.”

Nonnenmacher says for the most part, burglars steal valuables with the hopes of cashing them in for money.

“The first places we check are pawn shops in the area, and serial numbers help us identify the property.”

Payne has lived in his home for five years without a burglary occurring. He’s also active in his neighborhood association’s crime watch group.

“I haven’t heard of any recent burglaries in our area, but I guess that’s the best time for a robber to strike,” Payne says.

Nonnenmacher says it’s smart to take part in a crime watch group.

“With crime watch groups, police are more likely to make more arrests because you have residents that are visually prepared,” Nonnenmacher says. “They usually have their eyes open and, if they see something suspicious, they’re going to call us. When we don’t live in the neighborhood, we don’t know if something is suspicious looking at a certain house or not. So we depend on people like crime-watchers to let us know.”

As for Payne and his family, they plan to be wiser and more vigilant.

“If I could have done anything differently, I would have set my alarm, and I would have locked the garage door,” Payne says. “I was only gone for about 30 minutes but even in that short amount of time, someone still sees that as an opportunity to get into your house for your valuables.”

Payne notified his neighborhood association about his recent home burglary, and now he makes sure that all his doors are locked and the alarm system is on, even if he’s just stepping out for a few minutes.

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