When the doorbell on Mary’s (we’re withholding her last name for safety reasons) Ahwatukee Foothills home sounded Tuesday morning she assumed it was her landscaper.

“He comes by at random to get his payment or check on things, and I was half dressed so I didn’t answer. I figured I’d see him later,” Mary said.

A few minutes later she recalls hearing two loud bangs and as she walked down the hallway to investigate the noise she came face to face with a stranger in her home.

“I screamed and screamed and he paused for a split second before he turned and ran back out the way he came,” she said. “I called 911 and the officers were on it.”

Mary said police responded quickly and spread out across the neighborhood near Equestrian Estates. Within a few hours police were able to find a suspect with a history of violence and drugs, and by the next morning they had a confession and an arrest was made. Police matched the suspect to Mary’s description of the man and her description of a car she’d seen parked across the street. They located stolen items from other homes and were able to connect the suspect to other break-ins.

“I’m so grateful they were able to extrapolate enough from a panicked woman to within a few hours find the man,” Mary said. “I just appreciate all the police did.”

Mary’s story is not unusual. Sgt. Joel Tranter of the Phoenix Police Department said forced entry into homes usually happens during the day when thieves think nobody is home.

In most cases when police contact neighbors asking for leads someone did notice something unusual, like a car parked where it doesn’t belong, just before the incident.

Police encourage anyone to call if they see anything unusual and to always lock doors, even when you’re home during the day.

The next best tip police have for residents is to make sure the garage door is closed.

“What happens is there are thieves driving around Ahwatukee and they may be looking for thefts and burglary or they just see an opportunity,” Tranter said. “They drive by, the garage is open, they see tools, nice bicycles, golf clubs, and even if they didn’t plan on stealing something, that opportunity presents itself and they get compulsive. They run up, grab anything and can be out in a matter of seconds.”

These thefts happen at all times of day and night, Tranter said. He often hears of people working in their front yard with the garage open and running inside or to the backyard to work there and coming back to find things missing. Tools, bikes, even purses left in parked cars are easy targets.

“I was flagged down by a local resident yesterday that told me their chain saw and leaf blower were taken from their garage,” Tranter said. “It’s hundreds of dollars to replace those items. This type of crime has been occurring for years and there’s always a need to remind people.”

Thefts from the home or anything attached to the home, like a garage, are classified by the police department as residential burglaries. There hasn’t been any noteworthy rise in residential burglaries as of late, but they are always a problem.

Tranter suggests closing your own garage door and watching out for neighbors as well.

“If you see your neighbor’s garage door open for any length of time they may have forgotten it,” he said. “They may have left the house and forgotten. Politely contact your neighbor or call us.”

As always, the police department encourages residents to call if they see anything unusual going on in their neighborhood. The number for Crime Stop is (602) 262-6151. For a crime in progress, call 911.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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