After having to file multiple Netflix movies as "lost in the mail" I began to get suspicious that there was more than just a careless mailman at fault. So what better to do than point a video camera at the mailbox and try to catch a Netflix thief.
Since both my roommate and I worked second shift jobs, we would be physically unable catch the culprit in action. And although suspicion was strong that it was the white-trash tenants in the first floor of our duplex, suspicion alone would not be enough. We needed something tangible, something we could take to the police if we felt the need. We needed him caught on camera.
Step 1: The Setup
Using my digital camcorder hooked up to a Macbook, we had the perfect security camera solution. Installing webcam security software, video would only be recorded when motion was detected (saving us from fast-forwarding through 9 hours of video). We point and zoom the camcorder on the mailboxes and let the waiting game begin.
Step 2: The Wait
Needless to say, it was a slow day at work. Netflix's automatic email said the DVD would be delivered that day. So after punching out at work, we race home to check the footage.
Step 3: The Hunt
We get home from work and begin hunting through the video clips recorded through out the day. And finally, the clip that made the slow nine hour work day worth it.
Step 4: The Video
(not sure if the black bar is necessary, but it looks cool)
Here we see the thief checks his mailbox first. Our mailbox is the one on the left. He gets his mail then returns it inside. But wait, there's more...
He then comes back outside and does a very suspicious scan of the surrounding area. Planning on breaking the law perhaps? Then, the shot we've all been waiting for...
Here we clearly see the bright red Netflix mailer in the thief's hands. You could almost say he was caught red-handed (sorry, I had to).
Well, the first thing I did was call Netflix Customer Support. I was afraid that I would be charged after filing so many DVDs as lost. Well, the representative was very understanding. She said that I should file a complaint with the police, and if I should receive the discs back, I should mail them in. But I would not be charged or fined for the lost DVDs.
So the next thing to do was to go to the police. Luckily, living in a small town like Watertown, Wisconsin; the police aren't too busy with high profile crime. So we met with a detective and also had our landlord come along to formally identify the person as the son of their other tenant below us in the duplex. After giving the police a copy of the same videos you've seen here, they told us they would pass it on up the chain since mail theft is a federal offense.
Well, many many months later we finally received some information that the case was proceeding on to trial. Then in February of this year, we received the final verdict and punishment.
He receieved a fine of $750 and went into a First Offender Program. Which is a sort of rehabilitation program for young first offenders.