Eliza Webb, 29, of Seattle, had a unique situation before her. She had come out to her car and found that her running shoes and sunglasses and been stolen from inside the vehicle. But the thief had also left something behind, quite by accident: his cell phone.
Webb thumbed through the phone and found the thief's contacts. One of them was labeled "Mom". Now, what's a theft victim to do?
Webb called the number. When a woman answered Webb told her, "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."
The woman's son turned out to be nineteen years old. As Webb says, "She was devastated."
Webb works with teenagers. She knew that a police record would certainly haunt this young man for a long time to come, hurt his chances at getting into a good school, of getting decent employment. She did not want to involve the police, especially if the mother was willing to cooperate with her in a plan she was hatching. She decided to hold him accountable, and to make sure he felt the sting of his crime.
She went to visit the teen and his mother. “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 to her that he had stolen items from ten more cars in the neighborhood. He said that the whole spree was a result of a night of drinking with a friend. Webb and the teen's mother decided that he would go house-to-house in her neighborhood, knocking on each door, admitting what he had done, and returning ever item he had stolen.
One of the neighbors who spoke with the teen, whom Webb still refuses to identify, told ABC News, “Kid said, ‘I know it was wrong. We’re not going to do this again.’ I said, ‘I hope not.’”
Webb hopes that her actions, while helping the young man avoid the direst consequences of his crime, will help steer him from any further infractions.
“Sometimes when you get shamed or told that you did something wrong by somebody else,” she said, “it can stick.”