While most of us are sleeping, one Red Deer man stays up and keeps an eye out for activity.
Brandon Free watches criminals checking door handles in his neighbourhood through the security cameras around his home. If he sees suspicious activity, he blares his air horn or scares them off by sounding the security siren at his home.
The Red Deerian, who is unarmed, pursues the criminals at times. He finds criminals with crowbars, screwdrivers, pocket knives and drug needles – which are a “big one.”
“If he’s going to pull a needle on me, I let them go. Otherwise, I take the weapons away (and give them to the RCMP) or let them be with it,” he said, adding they never hand over the weapons willingly.
The Red Deer father has about four cameras in the front of his house, and another four in the back. There are also cameras inside the house.
Most times, he watches the cameras and passes on any worthwhile footage to the RCMP. But at times, when he sees people lurking outside, he goes out there and gives them a chase. The former security industry worker said he isn’t afraid to pursue the criminals, if it’s needed.
He never goes out with a weapon to protect himself.
“I should be able to go out there with a weapon – I got somebody stealing my property. I should be able to go out armed, but the way our laws are, if I go out with anything, I could get charged,” he said.
He stays up every night until about 4 or 5 a.m. and heads to work at 7:30 a.m., he said with a chuckle.
The suspicious people are anywhere between 18 and 35 years old. Since November, Free has called the RCMP about 40 to 50 times and pursued criminals about 100 times.
By now, some of the criminals know the Red Deer man is watching.
“They’ve figured out our close is harder to get stuff out of, so they avoid us. But you can watch the trucks and the suspicious vehicle go by on the main street all night long still,” he said.
He sees the same faces – about 30 per cent of them – as well as new faces. In some cases, they’re men; in others, there are women; and sometimes, groups include both genders.
“There’s repeats. You can tell by the way they walk. Them trying to look for me when they come up, because they know I’m around, so they will watch and check around the corners. It is a lot of new people too, though.”
Free said he isn’t the only one watching the streets and security cameras in the wee hours. There are other people all over Red Deer who do the same thing. Crime fighters, who also watch Facebook crime prevention groups, text each other if they see suspicious vehicles in their neighbourhoods.
“If I get a text message (about suspicious activity), I go stand in the corner until that person decides to move along, or I leave a couple more lights on.”