Arizona’s “Rock Burglar” Finally Arrested

Posted by , , at 6:06 pm

Burglars are getting smarter, and there is evidence of that every day in the headlines I read about residential crime all over the US. One of their favorite tricks is cutting the vulnerable phone line, since that’s the way most old-school alarm systems send the alarm to the monitoring center. Another trick is throwing a rock through a window, to see if that triggers an alarm. But in the case of one enterprising burglar who operated in and around Phoenix, AZ for 17 years, it was his signature method for years. In fact, they nicknamed him the “Rock Burglar.” But according to a recent report from The Arizona Republic, it looks as if the only rocks he’ll be facing for a while will be on the rock pile – in prison.

The notorious “Rock Burglar” who victimized the Valley for 17 years was methodical and patient, and a Maricopa County sheriff’s lieutenant said Friday it was that consistency that led detectives to a suspect. Sheriff Joe Arpaio put a team in charge of finding the infamous burglar, who since 1993 had pulled hundreds of break-ins and snagged about $10 million in cash, watches, jewelry and silverware.

Recent Patterns Pointed to the Same Perp

A recent string of more than 60 burglaries in Fountain Hills had many of the earmarks of the Rock Burglar, who is believed to have committed 327 burglaries from 1993 to 2006. After announcing the arrest of Robert James Neese, 58, police said they were certain that Neese is the man responsible for the Rock Burglar thefts. Scottsdale and Paradise Valley detectives expended thousands of hours looking for the Rock Burglar. “This is the guy,” they said.

Infamous Criminal Targeted Famous Victims

Many of the break-ins were at high-end Paradise Valley estates, including former Vice President Dan Quayle’s and the homes of baseball stars Steve Finley and Mark Grace. For years, the burglar’s signature was heaving a large rock through a living-room or bedroom picture window and, if no alarm sounded, entering through the hole. If an alarm went off, he fled. Similarities between recent Fountain Hills and Rock Burglar thefts included:

  • The homes that were burglarized were always occupied, not left vacant for months by winter visitors.
  • The burglar wore typical lawn worker’s cloth gloves with raised rubber bumps to help with the gripping of objects – and those bumps left behind a distinguishable pattern.
  • The homes had been staked out carefully enough that the burglar knew who was on vacation or who made a day trip away from home.
  • Once inside, the burglar went through belongings in the same way as the Rock Burglar and chose the same kinds of items to steal.
  • The burglaries were occurring during the same times of day and days of the week.
  • The burglar used a pillowcase taken from the home to take away his loot.

How Police Caught Him

Detectives took information on hundreds of burglaries to computer experts at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, a joint effort among the Arizona Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other agencies. “The computer analysis gave us the kinds of homes most likely to be hit and we already had an idea of the most likely hours of the day and days of the week,” police said. Police set up surveillance on three likely homes in Fountain Hills. During the surveillance, Neese approached one of the homes. Detectives stopped Neese, found that he possessed the kind of gloves used by the Rock Burglar as well as a set of burglary tools – the possession of which is a crime – and arrested him.

DNA Used for Additional Evidence

Police also served a personal search warrant and took DNA from Neese. He was released from jail on his own recognizance but kept under constant surveillance. Police said “the DNA told the story – we’ve tied him with DNA to crimes done years ago by the Rock Burglar.” Also, they said, glove prints, shoe prints and finger prints link Neese to recent burglaries as well as those going back more than 10 years.

As always, we’re keeping our eyes on the crime scene around the US, and reporting whenever we see important news about residential burglaries. It’s our goal to be your resource for the crime statistics, burglar behaviors, and the latest technologies to thwart intruders – including our very popular Top 10 Home Security Tips. By they way, FrontPoint offers a very effective (and affordable) glassbreak detector! FrontPoint is also the only alarm company in the country to use safer cellular monitoring on every system we sell – and charge less for it. But what people really know us for is our smarter Interactive level of monitoring. Make sure your home is protected: by FrontPoint, the leader in wireless home security and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.


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