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Travis Cottey
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Alert neighbors help Hamilton police nab car theft suspect

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HAMILTON, Ohio - A pair of alert neighbors in Hamilton helped police catch a suspected thief.

Charles House said his car and garage had been broken into several times over the past few weeks and he had to take action.

House said he decided to spend Friday night in his garage to see if he could figure out who was coming around.

After staying out there for a few hours, he noticed someone coming up the street, trying to get into people's vehicles.

House said he called a neighbor when the man got close to the neighbor's car.

After that, House and his neighbor hopped in a vehicle and tracked the man down a few blocks away. The pair said they held the man down while they waited for police to get to the scene.

When asked whether he was worried if the man was armed or not, House said, "I think anger had set in and took over and it didn't matter. I was just tired of it. I work hard for what little I have."

House said once the thief came into his house, things got personal.

Police identified the suspect as 32-year-old Travis Cottey.

Hamilton Police Detective Rich Burkhardt said tracking down possible suspects like that isn't always a good idea.

"It all depends. It's really good to be a good witness, and you can follow somebody, but I wouldn't put myself in danger," Burkhardt said.

Police said that instead of putting yourself in danger, people should be good witnesses. If they see something suspicious or a crime in progress, witnesses should call 911 and give a good description of what is happening so police can act on it.

Burkhardt said drivers and homeowners need to be vigilant against crimes of opportunity. Many times thieves will just walk by and check door handles, and if a car is open, go ahead and look for valuables.

People should write down the serial numbers of their important items and keep them inside if possible as well as locking all vehicle doors. In most cases, the thieves don't break the car windows unless there is an easy big-ticket item.

Police are asking people to report such crimes so officers can track where the crimes are happening. That can help police determine where to focus the patrols.

Officer Kristy Collins, the head of Neighborhood Watch Program, said residents should start with a phone call.

They should call if there's a problem in their neighborhood and start a watch program. That would involve bringing together people from the neighborhood to a meeting to talk about crime statistics in the area and the problems people are having.

"Neighborhood watch programs are successful when you have neighbors communicating with each other and with the police department," Collins said.

Burkhardt said in this case, Cottey is well known to officers.

Officers said Cottey did not show up for his court appearance and a warrant is out for his arrest.

House said he recognized Cottey but did not know him personally. He said the police who responded knew Cottey as soon as they saw him.

House said he's frustrated that police can't do much to stop such thefts.

"I flat out told him to stay out of the neighborhood," House said.

House said several neighbors have had trouble with similar thefts and the community is frustrated with the thefts.

Police described Cottey as 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 120 pounds.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call Hamilton police at 513-868-5811.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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