POLITICS

Kelowna, B.C., teens praised after non-stop texting helps foil break-in

06/20/2012 08:08 EDT | Updated 08/20/2012 05:12 EDT
KELOWNA, B.C. - Parents often scold their teens for constantly sending and receiving text messages, but all that cyber-chat may have headed off a robbery — or worse — in Kelowna, B.C.

A 14-year-old boy was getting ready for school Tuesday morning when three burglars broke into his East Kelowna home as he was texting via iPod to his friend, Kasia Niewinski.

"They were in his room a few feet away. It was scary," Niewinski said later of her friend, Nick, whom she didn't identify by his last name.

"(The crooks) didn't know anyone was there," she said, describing how they rummaged through Nick's bed as he crouched just steps away. "I wished I'd called police earlier."

Niewinski, 15, and Nick were sending text messages to each other as they normally did before school. After 20 minutes of chatting, Nick told her strange men were knocking on the front door. His mom was at work, so he didn't answer.

"He said he was kind of freaked out and he'd wait for them to go away. They didn't," Niewinski said.

The men disappeared around the back of the house and, because there was no phone in the home, a frantic Nick texted Niewinski, urging her to call his mother and grandfather.

It was 8:30 a.m. before Niewinski could reach Nick's grandfather, Wes Neilly, who told her he'd be right over.

"They broke in after I called his grandfather," said Niewinski. "I told him he should hide. He (Nick) was in his room ... He panicked and went to the closet. I called 911."

Neilly arrived minutes later, spooking the intruders. Two of them abandoned their loot and took off, but Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Tanya Carroll said a third man was caught with break-in tools and items including cameras, a laptop, jewelry boxes, alcohol and money from drawers.

"I think it was just a crime of opportunity," she said. "No one answered (the door). They made their way inside to steal whatever they could."

Niewinski's mother drove her shaken daughter to the house to make sure Nick was OK.

"Both of us — him especially — were shaken up," said the quick-thinking teen. "You couldn't hear his voice. Just texting. Just not knowing what was happening."

The arrested man is from Kelowna and in his late 40s. He’s known to police and was expected to make his first court appearance today. (Kelowna Daily Courier)