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Thieves use toy chopper as spy plane

TAOYUAN, Taiwan -- A man who allegedly used a remote controlled toy helicopter as a 'spy plane' to break into apartments was arrested last Saturday.

Chang Chen-cheng (張振成), 39, allegedly used the helicopter, which was equipped with a pinhole camera, to make sure the apartments were empty before he and his partner “Ah Hsiang” would break in and steal valuables from luxury apartments.

Cheng would park his stolen sport utility vehicle near luxurious apartments, then fly the helicopter up to the building's windows from the sunroof. The helicopter would send images of the house's interior back, the police said. If Chang and his partner were convinced that the apartment was empty, they would return the helicopter to the car, climb up the walls of the apartment building, and break into the flat.

Police arrested Chang near a residential building in Taoyuan, before he confessed to the crime — partner “Ah Hsiang” is still at large — according to a report by the Apple Daily. He said if there were moving shadows or anything suspicious in the images sent back by the helicopter, he would rather give up than risk there being someone home.

One of the police officers who took part in the operation said, “he's got a good brain and a good body. He can be really successful if he uses his talents in the right way.”

The pair had allegedly used this method to break into more than 10 homes in the Taoyuan and Hsinchu areas, and stole more than NT$10 million worth of goods. The police confiscated jewelry, luxurious watches, digital cameras and tools from Chang's flat. The pair are also suspected of two car thefts.

The helicopter Chang used was a Kyanite mini helicopter which cost about NT$950. Chang told police that the helicopter could fly for more than five minutes when fully charged. It was cheap, quiet and convenient, he said.

Chang also had a heavy motorcycle for daily use and for escapes, which was confiscated by police after the arrest. “It was fast and the police cars are no match for it,” Chang said. “It wasn't stolen, I spent NT$70,000 on it.”

Chang is a drug addict and has many criminal records. Last year, he and another partner, surnamed Pang, tried to escape from a police roadblock. Pang was shot dead by the police and Chang escaped.

The police advised homeowners to close their curtains or leave the lights and the TV on when going out to avoid this new method.

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