Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You won't believe this

This week I had planned on writing about our leanings toward political and social identity groups, but somehow the events of yesterday sidetracked that idea... and to be honest, this week's comments are far removed from anything I ever expected--or wanted to talk about.

So you ask what happened yesterday? Well, you are not going to believe this.

Since returning from Afghanistan I have not had much luck of establishing a regular sleep schedule and I find myself asleep (annoyingly so) during the day, as was the case yesterday afternoon. While napping, I was instantly awakened to the noise of three loud slamming bangs against my front door that shook the house and sent my cat Billie running for her favorite hiding place.

I jumped up, ran to my front door, opened it to see three male teens running away from my house. I then examined the door which is now cracked, the door jam splintered and it immediately dawns on me the the three had just tried to batter my door down! In broad daylight! In the afternoon, no less!

Naturally I immediately called the local police department with a police officer arriving just shy of three minutes. He records my information. One by one--four police cars in all--appear within seconds after that! I compliment our police force for being so prompt!

In any case, the officer toured my yard looking to see if anyone is hiding out in the backyard--or for any evidence left behind. Not finding anything, we talked for about fifteen minutes about what just happened.

The officer tells me that this kind of thing has been happening with a disturbingly increasing frequency. One: he tells me my neighborhood is experiencing difficulties. No kidding! This is not my first brush with such idiocy! While serving in Afghanistan last year some local kids (and not apprehended) were playing with matches and nearly burned down my garage and in August someone--in the dark of night--stole my central air conditioning unit!

Seriously. It is bad enough that these events have occurred, but more so since I was overseas defending our nation and not here to protect my home. It is downright insulting!

Two: the officer tells me things are getting worse as our country's economy turns south. Last month, a similar event occurred, only this time the perpetrators, also reported to be teenagers, gained entry and beat up an 89-year old lady while ransacking her home. This too, occurred in the light of day.

One has to ask, what the hell is going on in my city, and in our country?

Having resided in my current home for the last thirteen years--and in South Bend for 27 years, I have seen the ups and downs (mostly downs) of my neighborhood. The police officer tells me this used to be a nice Polish neighborhood. I agreed, but I know those days are pretty much a memory.

Sadly, my neighborhood has turned into an area that is depressed with many abandoned homes and perhaps the most telling change is that it has primarily become a rental community rather than like its origins where families owned their homes, improved their homes, lived in their homes, raised their families here, and took pride in their neighborhood.

That too, seems to be of a bygone era.

Our local government, well aware of the problem, has in recent years taken some superficial steps to remedy the problem (such as tearing down longtime abandoned buildings, more police patrols, etc.), but not fast enough to suit my tastes.

Ironically, I see some similarities here of some conditions I observed while stationed in Afghanistan.

When poverty takes root, it isn't long before one can see civility and citizenship slide away to be replaced by despair, ugliness and crime. Three: When I mentioned to the officer I was shocked someone would do this in broad daylight, in a home where I have a home security system. His reply was rather disturbing.

He said that these kind of crimes follow a similar scenario: The burglars burst into a home, look for light, easy, valuable things to grab such as DVD players, TV game systems, computers and other valuables... and if necessary, rough up a resident if they happen to be home, and then run for cover.

The criminals, and that is what they are, are in and out of the house in a matter of minutes--much faster than police can usually respond.

After the police have left me standing in my front yard, I make the usual phone calls (I hate to say 'usual' in this kind of situation) to get matters under control. I hear the expected comments: "I'm shocked! Can I help? Are you okay? Please, sell your house--get out--please!"

Now you can call me stupid, but leaving, to me, is not really an option. I like my home, simple it may be, but it is mine; I plan on living here and retiring here someday; AND seriously, who wants to be run off by the random acts of cowards and criminals?

After my friends John and Sherri come over to help me begin the process of repairing the door I began thinking of what I need to do to make sure this does not happen again.

John tells me we need to fortify my house. Sherri questions this, saying, "who wants to live in a fort?" A sentiment I happen to agree with, but when it comes down to it, I can be logical about this situation or I can be reactionary. I choose the former, but... to some degree John is right.

Let's face it, crime is not a matter of logic. And not wanting to be a victim, I have begun considering what options are available to me... some are cheap and easy, some not, some are hard choices and again, some not:

* Move out... not really a choice as far as I am concerned.

* Buy a gun for protection. This, perhaps, is the hardest choice to ponder. In my case, not bloody likely as I have always despised guns! Sure, I know how to use one. I just do not want one in my home (give me a good working phaser, however, and I could probably be coerced).

* I called the police late last night asking if I "could pick her brain" for a few minutes. I asked for advice for someone who does not want a gun... she suggested I keep mace in strategic locations (it does one little good to have mace in the upstairs rooms if criminals were to burst in and you are on the first floor)... she also suggested keeping mace on my car's key chain.

* Ask the police to inspect your home; they are always happy to give helpful tips to crime-proof your home.

* Make sure your doors are sturdy. Mine are--obviously, since the criminals (luckily) did not succeed in busting the door in. Next, and this should be a simple idea, but one so many people never give a moment thought: Lock your doors--day and night... whether you are home or not... ALWAYS!!!

* Keep all windows locked at all times. Outside your home, plant thorny bushes below the windows to make it painful for any would-be intruders, dissuading them from an apparent easy entry.

* Have a home alarm system installed (I have had one for years). If you have an alarm system, test it quarterly (for example, making sure its batteries are working).

* Bond with your neighbors so that everyone keeps an eye out for each other.

* Enclose your property with a security fence.

* Install night-time security (with motion detector) lights.

*Watch your neighborhood for strangers who seem to have no visible purpose being in the area.

* IF you happen to be home when criminals break-in, try to remain calm, do not confront or antagonize the criminals--and if at all possible, get out before you can be harmed. Your things are replaceable, you, on the other hand, are not.

* For some, buying a dog is an answer-- for me, not possible as I am allergic to most dogs.

* Most importantly, know the local police station's phone number... as a reminder, for emergencies call '9-1-1.'

You know, I could get angry (and believe me, yesterday I was); I could wring my hands crying; I could get all reactionary, but really what would that accomplish? And frankly, I refuse to give such lowlifes the satisfaction.

So now a day afterwards, I am sitting here at home tonight thinking about taking care of this situation. But to me, there are matters far more pressing. I am still seeking meaningful employment, still trying to get acclimated to home-life after being deployed overseas for a year, and I really hate having such stupid distractions.

But as they say, this too shall pass--and still, who would have believed it?


  1. If it hasn't been mentioned yet, one good addition to your landscaping for security purposes are decently sized shrubs under the windows that are thorny. I'm no horticulturalist so I can't suggest which type to plant. Also there are metal outer doors that look nice (I'm sure you don't want to feel like you're in prison) I've seen many wrought iron doors with pleasant floral or "leafy" patterns and include a deadbolt. The deterrance of a metal outdoor alone would be worth the cost in my opinion, although they may be a little pricey.

  2. I was also going to suggest a metal outer door.

    It really is a violation, isn't it? I'm just glad you weren't hurt. Even out here in the country, there has been a spate of robberies and garage break-ins. In desperate times, people turn to desperate measures. Sad, but true.