Off-duty Greensboro officer credited with stopping string of break-ins

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- He wasn't on duty and he wasn't even in his jurisdiction, but a Greensboro police officer is being credited for stepping up to help.

Jonathan Gardner had just finished the night shift with the Greensboro Police Department. He was heading home, in Burlington, when he saw something strange.

"A car came into the parking lot at a high rate of speed, driving pretty reckless," he said. "I watched for a little bit. And then someone got out of the vehicle and went to pull the door handle to another vehicle. That just didn't sit right with me."

Gardner said the two young teens proceeded to approach other cars, doing the same thing. Gardner called Burlington police and went up to them and identified himself as an off-duty officer.

"They were scared," Gardner said. "One of the kids kept saying 'I don't want to go to jail.'"

Burlington Police Lt. Brian Long said the teens Gardner caught, ages 13 and 14, are responsible for several car break-ins early Labor Day morning, and for the theft of two vehicles. Long said the break-ins and vehicle thefts occurred at The Colony Apartments on South Mebane Street.

"It's kind of scary when you think of an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of an automobile like that," Long said. "It certainly makes you think."

Long said if it weren't for Gardner, these teens might have proceeded with their spree and might not have ever been caught.

"Most of these cases, unfortunately, are hard to solve," he said. "He was absolutely the key to us being able to resolve these issues."

"I've seen it before," Gardner said. "People have taken cars and dropped them off at different locations. For that family to be missing their vehicle, sometimes for months, I didn't want that to happen. I wouldn't feel right allowing that to happen."

Gardner said he didn't think twice about stepping up to help.

"That's why I became a police officer," he said. "To make sure things like this don't happen."

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