Burglary in Southeast
Imagine coming home to your kicked-in back door.
Last week the Oregonian ran a cover story about the rash of burglaries plaguing SE Portland. At the time that the story ran, I noticed that the map of the city, which featured orange dots at the sites of recent burglaries, featured no dots within a five-block radius of my house. I had about one week's worth of gloating before, apparently, somebody else also noticed there were no dots in my 'hood, and decided to do something about it.
Yesterday noon, my partner and I stepped out for some errands. We returned about 45 minutes later and brought our groceries inside. A few minutes later I decided to put some items in the freezer in the garage. The doorknob was troublesome(?). I opened the door and noticed the back door open. Whoops, I thought, I left it open earlier. Then I noticed the splintered wood and the garage shelves emptied onto the floor. And the twisted doorknob on the outside of the house door. And the flashlight left on the floor. And my back gate swinging open in the breeze. "Sweetie, we've been robbed," I shouted, "Call the police."
It quickly became apparent to me that the burglar had only just left. Fortunately, it also became apparent that virtually nothing had been taken, most likely because the thief found very little of value in the garage, and spent 45 minutes trying to get into the house proper (where he would have found very little of value--why must the poor steal from the poor?). We counted ourselves lucky. It could have been a work day for us, giving the thief all day to break through the door from the garage into the house. Or worse, my partner may have come home from work by herself to discover an intruder.
We had no sense of loss as we showed a friendly police officer the damage, and later, when another officer arrived to look for fingerprints. We did, however, feel completely violated, and immediately suspicious of our nearby neighbors that we had not yet met. I do not think that it was coincidental that a thief chose our house at the exact same time that we decided to run errands. Instead, this bastard watched us leave and moved in immediately. Our swift return surprised him, and as we were walking in our front door, he was undoubtedly running out the back.
Our burglary had much in common with a burglary at my old address in the Brooklyn neighborhood, so it all synced up with the Oregonian's report: meth abuse is fueling an epidemic of property crimes.
The Brooklyn burglary was obviously perpetrated by a tweaker. Despite the fact that our house had three housemates' worth of electronics, rare collectibles, and even a couple of guns, the Brooklyn burglar only stole a couple of pillowcases (for carrying loot), the bowls of pocket change from our dressers, and all the CDs and DVDs he could carry. He left behind a 32 oz. soda and a mess of fingerprints.
The burglar from yesterday fit the same profile. He tossed all the shelves in the garage not to find valuable items, but to empty out a small suitcase to fill with our hard-earned stuff. While he could have been happy with a sweet Makita drill and a couple of easily portable tool cases left in the garage, his greed made him devote all of his thieving energy to defeating the inner door into the house. Had he gotten through, I'm sure we would have lost our paltry CD and DVD collections, maybe a camera. Or maybe he would have gone straight for the home office to scoop up some checkbooks and other documents.
We spent the day installing new locks on several doors, and the evening was spent rounding up any and all personal documents for inclusion in a new, safer hiding place. We both strongly recommend the same for everybody. Here are a couple of other points we recommend:
*Get to know your neighbors. We made a point of going around to all the neighbors to alert them that a burglar was around. In the process we got to meet several whom we had not yet met, which went a long way toward ameliorating our fears. When you introduce yourself, present them with a card or piece of paper with your name and tele #.
*Vary your routines. Some days, leave the car in the driveway and take the bus. If our truck had been parked in our driveway, this burglar never would have tried our house.
*Check your locks. Make a sweep of your home, checking doors and window locks. Make sure that locking bolts are reinforced in wood frame doors. If you have woodframe windows, check to make sure that the lock cannot be defeated by inserting a knife between the sections. If your locks do prove to be insufficient, try drilling a hole in one side of the frame (in the lifting window's channel) and inserting a stout peg or bolt.
*Security company window stickers or lawn signs work as a deterrent, whether you employ the company's services or not.
*Be conscious of what items in your home you may be "advertising". This includes expensive items visible through windows, the glare of a computer monitor shining in a dark room, or even the packaging of expensive items left out for recycling.
*Shred or burn all disposable personal documents. Don't be a packrat; if push comes to shove, either the billing companies or the government can track down their copies of invoices, receipts or personal papers.
*Store away very important personal documents in a safe, out of the way place, or get a safe deposit box.
*Remember that you cannot count on the police, except as official chroniclers of thievery. The Oregonian's article stated that there are four (4) officers assigned to burglary detail in SE Portland. That's just four individuals for an area five miles long by five miles wide. We knew there was little the officers we called could do, despite the fact that the thief was still in the immediate area when we called. But we still saw the necessity of filing an official report.
When it comes right down to it, nothing is going to stop a tweaker from trying to score something he can turn into more drugs. But individuals can go a long way to protect themselves. Be proactive; don't be a victim. It's no use closing up the barn if the horses have already gotten out.
Thanks for listening, and as always, Peace.
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