West Lafayette neighbors uncover crime after wireless devices stop working

Published:
Updated:

Could someone get access to your garage door, your car starter or even your alarm system just by driving through your neighborhood?

People in a West Lafayette neighborhood say that is exactly what happened to them. 

It started Tuesday when several neighbors in the Huntington Farms subdivision noticed their garage door openers were not working.

"A neighbor came over when she got home from work and said, 'My garage door doesn't work.' And I went 'Uh oh'," Bernie Chamness said. 

Chamness and her neighbors counted about a dozen people unable to use the garage openers, keyless entries, and in some cases, access their cars. 

"If you had a push button car, cars won't start, which is dangerous, you couldn't leave," Chamness said. 

After investigating for themselves and talking to Tippecanoe County Sheriff's deputies, it became clear this was not a coincidence.  

That became even more obvious when one mom came home to find someone had attempted to break in.

"They did try to put my garage door up. It tilted the garage door, threw it off track. It stopped them from getting into my home but it damaged my garage door," Hannah Swihart said. 

Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard says the almost-thief could have used a remote device to jam the signals and frequencies. A quick browse online shows cheap gadgets that let hackers steal the code and come back to use it later on. 

"Extremely high-tech and it's very nerve-wracking. So I actually called Lafayette Electronics Supply and I was, like, 'Look, this is what's going on, is there anything I can do to protect myself?' And he said, 'Anything that's wireless like this, they can pretty much block'," Swihart said. "I'm locking my door, lock your door between your garage and house, put your bolts in your garage doors, it's all we can do is keep ourselves as safe as possible by locking everything." 

The Tippecanoe County Sheriff's office is following up on leads, but have not yet made any arrests in this case.