An accused “Peeping Tom” who allegedly broke into some Marthasville homes was caught last week thanks to a surveillance camera installed by one homeowner, Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison said.
Jaybirth Harris, 25, of the 800 block of Daniels Trail, was charged Tuesday, Feb. 28, with felony counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree attempted burglary and two misdemeanor counts of stealing and invasion of privacy.
He was arrested at his workplace in Union and was being held in the Warren County Jail in lieu of a $20,000 cash-only bond.
On Feb. 23, a deputy responded to a home on Country View Lane in Marthasville to investigate a prowler complaint by a female resident who reported an unknown person had damaged a window screen.
Detectives learned that a nearby resident had installed a surveillance camera that recorded their yard and part of the neighbor’s yard due to an ongoing problem with a suspected prowler in the neighborhood.
A review of the video surveillance showed a male subject standing outside the window for a three-hour period. During that time, the man had his pants partially removed and appeared to be masturbating while looking through the window, Harrison reported.
From that video, police were able to identify Harris as the suspect.
The following day, detectives interviewed Harris and he allegedly confessed to entering the residence and watching people in other homes. He also admitted to stealing condoms from one home, Harrison said.
“What alarms me is he went from peeking into homes, to removing a screen so he could get a better view, to breaking into homes. It was escalating to where it may have led to a sexual assault,” Harrison said.
Female residents in Marthasville began complaining about a “Peeping Tom” looking into homes as far back as 2009.
In October 2009, a neighborhood watch forum was held at Marthasville City Hall to alert residents to an increase in suspicious activity involving reports of a prowler.
One of the female victims from the Feb. 23 incident had filed a similar prowler complaint in December when she heard a noise after retuning home and later discovered damage to her deck, police said.
Harrison urged residents to report suspicious activity. He said some of the prowler incidents went unreported because homeowners second-guessed themselves when items were found out of place.
“It’s amazing how many people lived in fear with the uneasiness of somebody watching them and making them uncomfortable,” he said.
Harris is on probation for five years in connection with a November 2010 domestic assault incident in Union and for possession of marijuana, according to online court records.
Harrison also said Union police are looking into similar prowler reports during a time when Harris lived there.
Harrison commended Marthasville residents for banding together to help eventually locate and identify a suspect.
“This is an example of an informal neighborhood watch at its best,” Harrison said. “They were patient with us. They were looking out for each other and their homes.”
“Combining the community with law enforcement, it was the perfect scenario,” he remarked.