In our modern era of crime fighting, NFL player credits car cam app for catching alleged thief ‘red handed’

PHOTO: Owl produces a small security camera to help customers monitor their cars.PlayABC
WATCH NFL player credits car cam app with catching alleged thief 'red-handed'

When Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah is on the field, his main job is to fight through tackles. He didn’t expect to be doing that to a stranger breaking into his car.

The 24-year-old NFL player, who comes in at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, recently purchased the Owl Car Cam for his Dodge Charger. It’s a cloud-based security camera with a subscription service.

The camera, which mounts on the car’s dashboard, has both inward and outward facing cameras, like similar products on the market, and connects to an app. The app alerts the user’s phone if the user’s vehicle is in a crash, dented or broken into, even if the user is not inside or nearby.

PHOTO: Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shared his experience using a small security camera that caught a stranger breaking into his car. ABC
Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shared his experience using a small security camera that caught a stranger breaking into his car.

In February, Armah said he got an “instant notification” on his phone from the Owl app and when he opened it, he said he watched in real-time as a stranger broke into his car. It was all captured on video through the camera.

“I see someone in my car, and that's when the adrenaline starts running,” he said.

Armah decided to run toward his car, where he saw the alleged thief trying to leave the premises.

PHOTO: Owl is one company creating small security cameras to monitor customers treasured spaces, like their car. ABC
Owl is one company creating small security cameras to monitor customer's treasured spaces, like their car.

Authorities say people should never apprehend a suspect themselves, but Armah said the alleged suspect tried to make a run for it. He said he caught up to him and restrained him with a grappling move called the “armbar.”

With the Owl Cam, Armah not only had footage of what the suspect looked like, but he also had a video of what appeared to be the suspect breaking into his car, which Armah was able to turn over to police.

“We have the guy's picture, we have what he was doing in my car… so it's really undisputed,” Armah said. “Literally caught red-handed.”

Armah, the son of an immigrant father from Ghana, said he bought a Dodge Charger with his first NFL paycheck. That car was just broken into in December, he said, so he decided then to invest in some security.

“I mean, windows shattered, glass hanging out on my paint, scraped up my side of my car,” he said. “You just feel very violated, and I felt like it's just disgusting to see your own property like that. Something you worked hard to get. You finally get it and someone physically went through your car, tampered with your personal items. You just feel very violated.”

The alleged thief that broke into Armah’s car was arrested and charged with breaking or entering into a motor vehicle. He was released on bond and is due in court later this month.

Andy Hodge, the founder and CEO of the company, said they have received positive feedback on their camera system.

PHOTO: Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shares with Nightline his experience using a personal security camera in his car. ABC
Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shares with "Nightline" his experience using a personal security camera in his car.

“We hear the story over and over again — where someone calls up the police and say, ‘Hey, my car got broken into, ‘Well we can't do much about that,’ 'I have video,' ‘Well the videos we get aren't very good. But then they send the video from the Owl Camera and the police say, ‘We've never seen video like this, we can see exactly who it is,” Hodge said.

Owl has been around for a couple of years and sells for $350 — $250 for the camera and about $100 for the first year of service. Devices like Owl are part of a growing smart device market to catch would-be thieves in the act.

For Hodge, one story that has stuck with him of Owl helping a customer get out of a scary situation involved a woman who he said was named Jennifer.

PHOTO: Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shows Nightlines Juju Chang the small security camera on the dashboard of his treasured Dodge Charger. ABC
Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah shows Nightline's Juju Chang the small security camera on the dashboard of his treasured Dodge Charger.

“Two guys came up to her, said they had a gun,” he said. “She thought…to walk in front of the car, pulled the two of them in the range of the camera. She points at it, she says, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ And they back off. And in less than an hour, those two guys were both arrested.”

The company said they have seen people post their Owl videos on social media, using crowdsourcing to help identify alleged suspects.

“I definitely think it's going to be a huge advantage,” said Armah, who is not currently being sponsored by Owl. “[Criminals] will think twice for sure.”

Armah, Hodge and the authorities do not condone people going after alleged suspects themselves. If you see something happening with your car, call 911.