Norbert Aguilar noticed an odd sight at the Oaks Dads’ BBQ cookoff in late January, and on a whim took a mental note before alerting police. Never in years, however, did he imagine how just a little vigilance could help out those who patrol our neighborhoods.
At the Oaks Dads’ Club meeting last week, Aguilar mentioned that an arrest (and the identification of another suspect) has been made in the case of multiple vehicle burglary cases which occurred at the club’s annual fundraiser Jan. 28.
“I was at the fundraiser that night, and I saw a car pull into the backside parking lot of the Oaks Dads’ Club, and it looked a little suspicious,” he explained. “I walked back there to get a better look. The vehicle had just made a circle in the parking lot and left, and I found it a little strange.”
At that point Aguilar had not been able to obtain the license plate, so on a hunch he stayed back to see if the car would circle around–and sure enough, a few minutes later it did.
“At that point, somebody was leaving the restrooms and jumped in the car. Right then I thought something seemed very wrong, and I was in position to take down the license plate,” he said. “As soon as I did, the car left. I took it down and tried to remember the description of the car just in case, because nothing had happened at that point. A couple of hours later people started reporting their cars had been broken into.”
As numerous members phoned police, Aguilar supplied a friend the license plate number initially so police could at least add it to their queue. Evidently his friend did indeed pass it along to the police along with her report, but Aguilar thought that was the end of it. On a hunch, however, he emailed an HPD officer a couple of weeks later asking for an update—and his jaw dropped at the response.
“He (the officer) said he had charged one suspect and identified another,” he said. “The one who had been identified had two felony warrants out and had just been laying low. He said it’s just a matter of time before they catch him.”
Aguilar has frequented the park for nearly two decades – both as the proud parent of a baseball son and now as a board member — and has always kept an eye out for its patrons. But he never imagined such an innocuous tip could bear such fruit, and said the experience proved that interceding is not the only way to resolve such an event.
“If you see something suspicious, go ahead and take the license plate number down,” he said. “You never know what may happen — it’s something as simple as that. In this case, it happened to have helped in the investigations into the car burglaries,” he said. “It goes to show that a little vigilance can go a long way. You don’t have to jump in the middle of it or get involved in any way, it’s just a matter of if you feel something is suspicious, take the next step and get the license plate number down.”
Aguilar said the news came at the perfect time — Oaks Dads’ Club is on the precipice of another season, and the results of this ordeal show how valuable a simple sweep of a parking lot can keep the community from becoming victims to the best of their abilities.
“It’s also a message to all our board members to be what we call ‘directors on duty,’” he said. “All you have to do is always be aware of your surroundings, which we hear the local authorities say all the time.”
Aguilar also praised the work of the Houston Police Department in going the extra mile to turn this small-time tip into a full-blown investigation.
That’s our tax dollars at work,” he said with a laugh. “We may have reported the break-ins and submitted the license plate as a suspicious vehicle, but they went the step further to do a full investigation and it turned out to be fruitful—I think it’s great on their part. It goes to show how fruitful a tip can be.”