After a Seattle woman learned that her car had been ransacked and items were missing, she decided that calling the alleged thief's mother would be a better option than calling police.
Catching the thief wasn't enough for Eliza Webb, 29. After falling victim to the petty crime, she decided to then play judge and jury.
When Webb found an unfamiliar black cellphone in the driver's seat of her car last month, she assumed that it belonged to the person responsible for stealing her running shoes and sunglasses. Webb browsed through the phone and called the contact labeled "mom." After a few minutes talking with "mom," Webb realized the alleged thief was a 19-year-old male teen.
"I said, 'This is a very uncomfortable phone call to make. I have your son's phone and I'm missing some things out of my car and I think they might be two related items,'" Webb told ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO. "And she [the mother] was devastated."
Webb works with teenagers and didn't want to involve the police if she could find another way to make the teen accountable for his alleged crime. Webb declined to identify the teen and his mother, but she took a trip to their home to confront them.
"We knocked on the door and he answered in just sort of a defeated look. He looked like he had been crying," Webb said.
The teen admitted he'd hit 10 more unlocked cars in the same neighborhood with a friend and blamed it on a night of drinking that got out of control, Webb said. After talking with the teen and his mother, Webb decided he and his accomplice would go house-to-house to return what they had taken and apologize to every victim.
An unidentified neighbor who met with teen said, "Kid said, 'I know it was wrong. We're not going to do this again.' I said, 'I hope not.'"
It was homegrown justice that Webb thinks, at least in this case, might actually help.
"Sometimes when you get shamed or told that you did something wrong by somebody else," she said, "it can stick."