Monday, December 1, 2008

A Holiday Burglary

by Julia Buckley
Last Tuesday someone broke into my sister's house. They were alerted to the fact that the place was empty, my sister thinks, by the UPS package which was left on her front porch without a signature (something UPS had said they would not do). That lonely package may well have made the thieves scanning her street think that her house was a likely target. They broke her basement window and climbed up her basement stairs. The door was locked, so it took them a while to break that down. Once they got through that, they were in her kitchen. They spent no time there. They went straight to the only bedroom on the main floor--my nephew's bedroom. He is thirteen, and they liked what they found in his room. They took his backpack and used it as a vessel to carry the things they wanted.

His IPOD, his camera, his money--all of those went into the backpack, and then the thieves moved up the stairs to the other bedrooms. They went into the room where my nieces sleep. My nieces, fourteen and ten: not much in their room that the thieves wanted, but there was plenty in the bedroom of my sister and her husband. Money, of course--just change kept in a little jar. My sister's jewelry--all of it. Years and years of gifts from her husband, her children, and her kindergarten students: necklaces and bracelets, rings and pins, all of them given with love--were dumped into the backpack. Because my sister recently lost a significant amount of weight through sheer self-discipline (and Weight Watchers), her engagement ring, now too big for her, sat on her dresser. They took that, too.

While the thieves roamed their house, a neighbor thought things didn't look quite right. They called the police. It took the police a while to get there, but when they did, they noticed a suspicious pair of men walking down the street. One of them had a green backpack. The police went after them, but the one with the backpack got away. They couldn't hold the other one, who claimed to know nothing. Later they also stopped what they believed to be a driver and a lookout--but they had no evidence on them, either.

The police returned to my sister's house and went inside. Secured on their refrigerator, with magnets, are "Mom and Dad's numbers at work." My brother-in-law happens to be a police officer; they called him.

This is the second time my sister's house has been burglarized. It may not be the last. They are in the city and their home is right by an El station. I asked my brother-in-law, when he told me this story at our Thanksgiving gathering, if he wasn't angry. If he didn't feel violated that these people took his things, that they were in his children's rooms. He shrugged. "Naw. Not this time," he said. "We just told the kids that people who do things like this must need it more than we do, and we should pray for them, and be grateful that we have a house someone else thinks is worth robbing."

I stared at him in disbelief. In this respect I am very different from my sister and her family. They are gentle and forgiving; I believe I would be angry and frustrated. I would spend long hours hating what had been done and resenting the anonymous thieves. I would feel insecure and check all of my locks and chafe at the frailty of glass windows. And yet I know that people who are determined to steal will steal, and that's a frightening thought.

My sister's worst moment came when she realized that her daughters, who arrive home before she does, might have walked in on this, on them, if no one had called the police. That makes her worry about the future; she is thinking of asking her boss to change her hours so that she can be home to welcome her children. She doesn't know if he will.

Meanwhile her husband has been visiting some pawnshops, telling them that he'd like to know if any of them get his wife's engagement ring.

This whole thing upset me and made me angry on my sister's behalf; but their calmness in the face of loss has also inspired me. Ultimately if they can accept it, I can. But I might want to help them buy some bars for their windows . . . .


Sheila Connolly said...

We're good at denial, aren't we? When we lived in California, in an iffy neighborhood, we were broken into four times in five years. We didn't have much worth taking. The last time we must have interrupted the criminals, because when we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, we found our television sitting by the front door. We stopped reporting the break-ins to our insurance company (actually the first one dropped us after the first theft). We told the cops, but they couldn't do much. We just figured it went with where we lived, and ultimately we moved away anyway (for job reasons, not because of the thefts).

As you said, what hurts most is not monetary, but losing treasured and irreplaceable mementos.

Julia Buckley said...

It is ironic, Sheila. And it does partly come with the neighborhood, but that wouldn't make it any easier for me.

Then again, any neighborhood is potentially at risk. My friend Kathi lives in a relatively affluent and "secure" suburb, and I once went to her house to drop off a book. I knocked at the door and glanced into her front room window, where I saw a bag sitting on the floor.

Kathi later told me that I had interrupted a burglary. The perpetrators had also come in through a basement window, but they had their own large sack, and one of the things they took was her laptop with all of her writing on it. We know how painful that would be.

Sandra Parshall said...

Wow, Julia, it's amazing that your policeman brother-in-law has such a generous attitude. I could never feel that way. I'm still mad that somebody stole the birdbath out of our front yard!

Julia Buckley said...

I'm with you, Sandra. My sister's family has the sweetness of a Laura Ingalls Wilder family. But not I. :)

And now I'M mad that someone stole your birdbath! :)

Sandra Parshall said...

I had an interesting conversation with the young cop who took the report about our birdbath theft. He said that now and then the police discover somebody who turns out to be a compulsive thief who will take anything and everything -- they'll find a car trunk, a garage, a shed, even a house crammed full of a crazy assortment of stolen items. Then they go back through old reports to see if anyone reported those things stolen. I may see that birdbath again someday. :-)

Picks By Pat said...

I was burgalirized one year during the holidays. Fortunately, my neighbor alerted the police because she saw a strange vehicle in our driveway. It does rob you of your sense of security.

I wouldn't be as understanding as your brother-in-law, though.

Julia Buckley said...

The birdbath almost sounds like a teen stunt--but maybe I'm unfairly judging teens. Maybe it was just an envious neighbor who is secretly letting birds bathe in THEIR backyard. :)

Pat, that's such a shame! But during the holidays in a slow economy--that seems like prime burglar time. I'm going to be extra careful about locks.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I'm very sorry to hear this, Julia. Your sister sounds like a special lady.

FIONA said...

Julia, I'm so sorry for your family. What an awful experience. I am amazed at their generous spirit. I would have a hard time being that forgiving.

A word of caution from one of our neighbors who was robbed. The police officer told them that robbers often strike again, in a few weeks, when they think the things they took have been replaced!

The police officer also said to keep your jewelry box in an odd place--the linen closet (behind a blanket or between two pillows) at the bottom of your laundry hamper...

Someplace where you can get to it, but the robbers won't think of.

Keep cash and small electronics in an odd place, too.

Julia Buckley said...

Wow! Thanks, Fiona. I will pass that info on to my sister!

What a horrifying thought.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.