By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Perry Pustam was stunned when he watched video of a stranger stealing several of his Desert Rose plants from his East Hollywood home early Wednesday.  

His home video surveillance system captured it.

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“It was about 4:15 a.m. Some guy pulled up, opened his car trunk, decided to come and swipe three of our plants then leave, like it’s nothing,” Pustam said.

He worries if someone’s that bold, what will happen next.

“The bigger picture here is, if they can do that one day, what are they going to do the next day. They’re going to come back and say, ‘Oh, I got away with this. Maybe I should get some more,’” he explained.

Perry’s on to something there.  

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Neighborhood crimes, like porch pirates stealing packages or people rummaging through unlocked cars, are some of the most common crimes.  

“They might seem trivial,” explained Alex Piquero, who is the head of Criminology at the University of Miami, “but they’re not, because if they’re undetected and unarrested by the officers, then that not only could increase in frequency, but also it could lead offenders to be more emboldened, ‘Oh look, I got away with this, I can get away with even more next time,’” he said.

He says the best way to deal with petty crime is to report it, even if you think it’s minor.

“If no one’s calling attention to the problem, the problem can fester, it can grow, it can become more serious. What we need to do as citizens is alert the police department so they can shut it down as soon as possible,” Piquero said.

One other prevention tip, help the neighbors by looking out for anything suspicious.

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“Remember, the police can not be everywhere,” Piquero explained, “so we need each other to help police our own neighborhood. And the more eyes on the streets, the more eyes on porches, the better off we will all be.”

Ted Scouten