Monday, September 17, 2012

An Unexpected Visit

by Julia Buckley
On Saturday night there was a knock at our door; I sent my husband out to see who it was, and he found that it was a police officer.  Our neighbor had called him after seeing two men go from his yard to our yard to the next yard, peering into all of our windows.

This is disturbing no matter how you slice it, and it's even more so because we were IN our houses when this happened, but it was dark outside, and had my neighbor not pulled up in his car and spotted the men, none of us would have known that they were out there, interlopers, probably assessing things while planning a robbery.

But the audacity of their actions is nothing new.  I need only read the crime report in our local newspaper to see that people are committing bold daytime robberies and burglaries, some of them at gunpoint.  They don't even restrict themselves to dark alleys or out-of-the-way places these days.  People are robbed on major thoroughfares in the middle of the afternoon.

So has this always been the case, or are criminals more audacious?  If it's B, why is it so?  Is it the difficult economy which has people brashly committing crimes without fear of the law?  (As of yet, I don't know whether or not the police apprehended our own peeping toms).  Are today's burglars empowered by the same sort of self-centeredness that seems to have become a societal staple?

We live close to Chicago, where this year's murders (according to the Huffington Post), have exceeded the killings of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  We're in a Chicago suburb, though, where there are rarely murders at all. But other crimes, like carjacking, assault, and theft, are regular realities.

In any case, while I'm disturbed by the fact that strangers were up to no good and as close as my doorstep, I'm not surprised.  It's not the first time people have been there.  When my sons were little, their brand new bikes were stolen off of our protected back porch; the training wheels were torn off and left behind.  Sometimes when I leave out donations for Goodwill or Amvets, they are taken before the truck gets there.
Our neighbors to the south had their entire house cleaned out in the middle of the day.  The burglars came in through their back yard (which has a high fence around it) and had a truck waiting in front.  They did a quick, business-like cleanout in a matter of minutes, and all electronics were gone.

And perhaps most interestingly, our neighbor once called us to tell us that three drunk men had climbed the tree in our backyard and sat in it for several minutes before climbing down and moving on.

It's probably no surprise that my sons have grown up very security-conscious and rather obsessed with locks and  bolts.  This incident will probably increase their vigilance, and I suppose that's a good thing.  But it's also sad that they can't feel safer in their own neighborhood, as I did when I was a child.


Sheila Connolly said...

For the past 25 years we have lived in Victorian homes. Of course we have locks on doors and windows, but anyone could get through those in a couple of minutes with a butterknife. Electronic systems are out of the question because of our three cats. Neighbors work during the day, so there's no one around to observe suspcious activity, and there are plenty of blind corners where a thief could take his time.

I did an experiment of sorts a few years ago. Our house then, in a delightful small suburban town, had a wraparound front porch, facing the street, and I was sitting on the porch for several hours during the day, painting window frames. Plenty of people passed by (lovely sidewalks in that town), but not one person looked up to notice someone sitting on the low roof in plain sight.

I'm not sure there's anything that we as homeowners can do. It seems that some essential element of social trust has been broken.

Julia Buckley said...

Sad, isn't it? But I have a good and vigilant neighbor, and a very barky dog, and I'm hoping that these two things will work to my advantage when the ne'er-do-wells come lurking.

Your house sounds lovely, btw. :)

Sandra Parshall said...

Somebody stole our birdbath out of the front yard once. It's amazing what people will do.

Sheila Connolly said...

Sandy, I had forgotten that someone made off with a concrete cherub that used to sit on our front porch. He already had a broken leg that was clearly glued together. Do people steal just because they can?

Julia Buckley said...

Good question, Sheila!

Sandy, that is sort of tragicomic. I mean, are they actually watching birds bathe now, or did chuck your birdbath through the window of a jewelry store? :)

Julia Buckley said...

Make that did THEY chuck it through a window? I was talking and writing at the same time--I was not born for multi-tasking. :)

Sandra Parshall said...

When we reported the birdbath theft, the young police officer who took the report wasn't at all surprised. He said there are lots of people who go around stealing stuff from people's yards -- including a lot of things that aren't even useful. It's a form of kleptomania.

Julia Buckley said...

Wow. Meanwhile the birds are not as clean as they could be. :)