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May 12, 2009

Me and the Burglar

Me and the Burglar

By Sarah

Ever since the snow started to melt, my little hamlet in Vermont's been the target of a crafty burglar. It's Burglar early for this kind of hi jinx. Usually, burgle season comes closer to spring which, granted, can last about a day here. I have actually stood outside in snow on one afternoon and worn shorts the next morning. Spring is something other people have. Vermonters? We got mud.

But that's Global Warming for you. Melts the ice caps and invites open windows in February, which was when the burglar started coming around during winter/spring break. My neighbor had her laptop stolen the day before she left for vacation. Other people had jewelry, a bike, CDs. All were taken in the middle of the day or evening when no one was home. They got in by walking through the doors. A concept, I know, and one made available because we're a trusting lot up here and rarely lock anything.

As for me, I'm always home, especially now that my daughter's driving and she's taken my car. Also, I have a big (stupid) dog who's become angrier in his older years. I figured whoever was scoping out our homes had to know I never left and that my killer dog would attack if I had. That is if we were scoped out at all.

We were.

It sends chills to think that the salesman who showed up at my door on a Saturday this winter clutching a gingham covered candle - complimentary! - and mumbling offers about discussing insurance or Candles whatever might have been the guy. A man arrested burglarizing a home in Danville, Vt. who's believed to be the same one who broke into my friend Betsy's house and a whole bunch of other people's here, was acting as a door-to-door salesman checking out who was home during the workday and who wasn't.

I remember that he looked "off." Not off like the VPIRG people look with their long hair and Birkenstocks and rail thin vegan bodies. Those guys are par for course, asking for donations to continue their fight against nuclear power or whatever it is VPIRG does. Nor was he off like the two GIGANTIC MORMONS who appeared one day in my garage.

That was pretty freaky. My dogs were barking like mad and I couldn't see who'd driven in or where they were. Finally, I went to the door that leads to the garage and - ding, dong! - two gigantic Mormons. Or maybe they were Jehovah's Witnesses since I don't think Mormons dare pair man with woman. All I know is that they were over six feet tall and, now that I think of it, kind of supernatural. Hmm. On second thought, maybe I should have listened.

No, the distinguishing characteristic of my gingham candle carrying salesman was that he wasn't really selling anything. All he wanted to know was whether it would be better to come back later, if I'd be home on Monday. I told him yes because I felt sorry for him and in this economy saying no to a guy in an ill-fitting suit who was trying to keep food on his family's table just seemed heartless.

But then Monday came and he didn't. Probably because he was on East Bear Swamp Road breaking into the house of someone who said they wouldn't be home Monday afternoon.

I can't believe I didn't see the perp. I, who see criminality in everyone like better people see Jesus. Reminds me of the time, a day or so after my husband's cousin committed suicide, that I walked out the front door of our apartment in Shaker Square in Cleveland so dazed with grief I nearly bumped into a guy trying to get buzzed upstairs. That guy that day tied up a woman in our building and forced her to empty her ATM. Some detective I was. I thought he just looked confused.

How about you? Have any brushes with crime? Or are you like me. Blissfully ignorant.




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What an ingeniously simple way to find out if it was okay to burgle a house! You have to give the guy credit for that one.

We always thought our house was pretty safe because of me working from home, too. Until one late Friday afternoon. I had picked up one of the girls and tried to talk her into going out for pizza with me, but she had other ideas, so we went home. To find our back door standing open, propped that way with a throw rug, and a young man who started out the door, but then darted inside when he saw us.

I had just started carrying a cell phone, but it was in the house. I sent my daughter next door to have them call the police while I stayed in the car. No one home there. No one home next door to them. Finally she roused the next neighbor over, a single guy, who was taking a shower. He called the cops, and I waited for them by myself (I had forbidden my daughter to come back until she saw the police).

The cops came, and they made us sit in the backseat of the cruiser. Locked in. That was creepy. One guy went in the back door. By then, the front door was open and it looked as though the burglar(s) took off that way. Here comes a second cop, who goes into the house via the front door, whereupon the other cop nearly shot him. Scared us all to death. Then my middle daughter gets dropped off, sees two police cars strewn in the drive, and starts to tear off into the house. Luckily, one of the cops stopped her before SHE almost got shot.

It turned out that, even though all the outer doors were locked, they got in through the screened porch. But not through the door. They busted out the window screen, pushed down the window, and used the window to boost themselves (hisself) up onto the low roof, and into the open bathroom window.

Nothing was taken, since I think we got there just in time, although my daughter's underwear drawer had been rifled, and she was mightily freaked for weeks. But we now no longer leave ANY doors or windows unlocked. Period. Let them work for it, I say.

Then there was the time the fire department broke in, and I came home to find rescue crew searching my house for a fallen elderly person. No one was home, but a 911 call came from our address. It turned out to be an address on the other side of town, input incorrectly into the system. They promised to take care of it. I had to get a window replaced for that. Then a few weeks later, we awoke at a godawful hour of the morning to the EMS pounding on the door, again responding to the wrong address. The last straw came when I woke up one morning (after a sleepless night) to find firemen coming up my steps. The chief and I had some long email exchanges until the error was fixed, let me tell you.

Only one incident, someone kicked open the apartment door, ransacked the bedroom, got one of my guns, ripped the stereo and VCR out of the office and put them in the living room. Aside from the gun and forty dollars in cash, nothing else was taken. Best we could figure was one of the cats made a noise and the Bad Guy took off. He then went across the hall, kicked in the neighbors door, and got all the family jewelry. I was shocked at the lack of support from the complex, from alarm companies, and from 911. I found an automated burglar alarm system that I installed only to be told 911 WILL NOT respond to an automated system.

That's when the house hunting began. Prior to move in, ADT came out and I told the salesman point blank, "I want Goldfinger to get into Fort Knox easier than someone can get in here." Between the two of us, we designed a system that is pretty good. However, nothing is flawless. If someone wants in badly enough, they'll get in. All we can do is make it as difficult as possible and hope they'll move along....

There's the story I've told here before about the time I was raking leaves on my sidewalk or trimming my hedges right in front of my porch when this very haggard woman of indeterminate age walking by said under her breath, "want to party?" I stuttered, and politely declined. I think I actually said, "No, thank you."

And there was the guy my wife went on a date with in college who later killed his girlfriend. I think someone here (Sarah, maybe?) either knew him or knows someone who knew him. Small world.

And there've been the couple of times some guys in an unmarked van in a shopping center parking lot asked me if I wanted to buy some stereo equipment that had accidentally been loaded onto their trucks in addition to the equipment that they were supposed to deliver that day, and their boss would be upset if the came back with undelivered stuff.

There's probably more, oh, the convicted murderer I represented who assured me moments before his execution that I would be alright, but nothing I can think of right now. The drug deals I observe at the punk shows I attend. NBD.

Karen, I'm feeling very sorry for the person who had your corresponding address on teh other side of town---fallen elderly folk, a fire---and all the help was breaking into the wrong house to help!

Me? Our first apartment was broken into one sunny Saturday. By a pair of 8-year olds who stole potato chips & soda and some of my theater costume jewelry. Then they sat on our patio for a picnic, trying on the jewelry. All the other neighbors watched. Big help they were.

Also long ago, my 8-track was stolen out of my car, which really freaked me out. I mean, why steal an 8-track??

That was what we thought, too, Nancy! It was an inconvenience for us, but could have been a horrible experience for that poor woman, lying helpless. It was really frustrating that the 911 people couldn't seem to fix the issue for so long.

Sheesh, Sarah, I'm like you--I like to think I'm savvy and suspicious enough to be safe . . . but I'd have been just as friendly as you were to the gingham candle guy and probably would have told him my entire schedule. The town I live in too often feels like Mayberry and I know I'm a bit too casual about locking doors and closing windows. This winter there were some daytime break-ins less than a mile from our house and we got to be very good about locking doors at all times, but they caught the guy and I know I'm more relaxed about it now. And with spring here, our windows are always open.

Now I'm nervous.

I've often thought of what I would do if I ran into a burglar. This is where fantasy and reality do NOT meet...You were wise to send your daughter away. Too bad about the front door.

I like the story of the guy who found a burglar in his house and snuck out and stole the burglar's van. I think the cops charged HIM with stealing and he was like, uh, no.

Well, my first husband was a cop, and we met while we were both taking police science. So I've had some (very long ago) training in thinking that way. But if it was a fictional event no one would bother reading it!

While nothing of consequence has ever been stolen from our home, back in the early 90's we had an incident to which I now refer to as "The Great Toilet Paper Caper".

We live on about an acre and a half of land with a house in the center and in the far back corner a building which is bigger than a shed, but not quite a garage. Outdoor equipment, a tractor, and other various and sundry items get stored in it, including in the past overstocks on staples such as toilet paper.

We only locked one set of double doors on this shed. The other set we latched shut from the inside. Big mistake on our part it turned out.

One day I went down to the shed and noticed some things were moved around and other things were missing. Then I noticed a tool kit laying out on the back side of the building. After a consult with my husband and my father, who lives next door, we decided that even though we weren't quite sure of everything that was taken, we'd better call the police.

Calling the police in my town, means calling the state police. About an hour after our call a trooper showed up to investigate. First he asked us what was missing and I had to tell him "Toilet Paper". We told him we weren't quite sure what else was missing, probably some automotive supplies.

After checking out the building he said that someone had probably sent a small child under the one set of doors, unlatched them and then they had begun to remove items. The tools were probably too heavy to carry. Why they took the toilet paper, who knows?

Fortunately in the police report, in the local newspaper a few days later, it didn't mention what was stolen. The "Great Toilet Paper Caper" remains an unsolved crime to this day.

My house (knock wood) has never been burgled, but I have BAD luck with purses.

1st Incident: I had the entire contents of a purse, but not the purse, stolen - in a church while I was in the wedding party.

2nd Incident: I was given a very nice, name brand hand bag when I graduated from college. I was grocery shopping and on my way out to the my car with the cart, a young man rushed me, shoved my cart at me, and took my bag. While investigating, the policeman went inside and asked questions in the store and it turned out that several people had seen the young man following me through the ENTIRE store while I did my shopping. He got a nice bag, a ratty wallet, my gold cross graduation pen and about 65 cents.

3rd Incident: I was a new mom. It was winter. And, it was 2 minutes til kiddie pickup deadline. I locked the car, rushed in with just my keys to bundle up baby in the infant seat, and I came back to NO PURSE in the car. This time there was real damage. They had extra keys to my car and house and a new book of checks and all my IDs. In about 12 hours, they used almost every check at any Wal-mart or grocery store around and always wrote it for $20 over. It took over 1 year to get my record cleared and the bench warrant in the neighobring county removed. UGH!

For years, I carried only a diaper bag or a ratty kids backpack. And, I HATE grocery stores.

Years ago, we bought a very old house and converted it into offices. One night, I was working late, by myself, music playing, and I looked up to see the largest man in the universe standing in my office doorway.

I'm talking Casey Hampton big, only taller too. Before I even had time to think, I said "May I help you?" and he kind of paused and said he was looking for work. I smiled and told him I didn't make those decisions, but if he came back in the morning, he could get more information.

It was about this moment that I started to realize the danger. He stood there for a minute in silence, and then said thanks and headed back down the stairs. I waited until I heard him leave through the front door before I called 911.

To this day, I am amazed that I didn't react in some idiotic way. Like the time in the grocery store parking lot when some punk tried to grab my purse (one of my first Brighton purses - hey, it was the '90s) and I punched him in the face. I think he was so shocked that someone like me could actually throw and connect a decent hit that he took off.

Any way, so much for my powers of observation. When the police came to my office, all I could remember was that the guy was big (I could show them via the door frame), black and that he had on a Steeler jacket. That really narrows it down around here. sheesh.

I work part time in snobby west St. Louis county. about every other year we get a warning from the police to keep the back door locked because there are robbers working their way down strip centers pulling on back doors and helping themselves if the door is unlocked.

The MO department of corrections had a little explaining to do when a home robber on parole was arrested wearing his ankle monitor. It seems that if you are on a monitor, you are (or were) able to come and go as you please from 9AM-5PM to look for work. This guys MO? Breaking into houses in the middle of the day.

And one last one. Where I live several of my neighbors are students at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. I left for work one morning to discover a neighbor's (one of the college kids) car with the windows knocked out and the stereo gone. A few weeks later, it happened again to the same car. After the second one, I learned that it was probably the girl he had just broken up with, and the girl he was seeing after that.

Kathy, given the criminal propensities of those Steelers (didn't the kicker bust up 7-11 or something over the winter, and they ALL were on the juice back in '80's?), it probably WAS a Steeler. Now, if it had been a Buc, he would have tripped down the stairs and been easily caught. They suck, even at being criminals.

Okay, it wasn't a 7-11. It was a Sheetz, which is sort of the central PA equivalent.


Josh - I love you, man. You should be writing your own blogs. I mean it! When are you going to guest blog for TLC?

By the way, I would have not only recognized the guy if he WAS a Steeler, but would have asked for his autograph and taken photos.

Unless it was Mark Malone parading around. Then I would have punched HIM in the face.

If Mark Malone had thrown a punch standing right next to you, it would have landed across the street.

Sorry, all, on this sports nonsense, but once it gets rolling, it's hard to stop.


Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA or whatever who believes marriage should be between "one man and one woman" (except for Donald Trump, looking on, who's "one man, three women") just THANKED GOD for entrusting her with this huge task of preserving marriage.

Let's see. Now whom has God chosen in the past. Well, there was Moses and Jesus and maybe Mohammed. Paul, of course. And a bunch of others. Joan of Arc. Florence Nightingale and...CARRIE PREJEAN!!!

As Kathy would say, you can't make this shit up.

Ankle monitors? Ohhhhhhhhhhhh my. Do NOT get me started on that....

Will she just go away . . . PLEASE? I mean next thing you know she'll claim God chose her to pose naked so that she could get her message out, and that she's being made a martyr so she can suffer for her beliefs about marriage. I'm not sure how having her clothes fall off in front of a photographer and then lying about it on her Miss California application all make sense, but then I haven't been chosen by God/

If God's so great in Carrie's eyes, how come he didn't make her boobs bigger? That's what I wanna know.

God was concentrating on her inner beauty, I guess.

Judy - if by 'message' you mean 'nipple' then she is indeed following orders.

He obviously wasn't focusing on her brains!

I think all "beauty contestants" should have to have REAL boobs, REAL noses, REAL chins, whatever cellulite on their thighs that God gave them. Any plastic surgery would disqualify them.

Now, back on topic...I am Ms Naivete. I walked into my house being burglarized. I thought all the noise was my bird. Then when I saw the window in the laundry room open, thought hubby had locked himself out. When I saw the empty can where we kept the change from his pockets, I thought he'd come in through the window after looking himself out and didn't have any money for lunch and took all the change. Yeah, I was that out of it. When I saw the pillow on the couch without a pillowcase, all the pieces finally fit. I left and called the cops. Cops decided I had interrupted the burglary before much was taken.

I have had my credit cards stolen but I canceled them before much was spend (I think they got beer at Walgreens).

I did accidentally cuss out the Jehovah Witnesses who wouldn't leave and accidentally let my dog out of the house. They have never been back to my house after that. I wonder why? LOL I'm probably on the ongoing prayer list. (That sinful heathen who cussed at us)

Cyndi...I wish you lived closer to us. Though, by us, I suppose that doesn't exist in one place, does it?

I think I saw that "inner beauty" in one of those photos. Or in one of the photos we haven't seen yet.

I don't want her to go away. She's like Sarah Palin and her domestic situation (including potential and ex-in-laws): she's the gift that just keeps giving.

My brother had his wallet stolen and some doofus criminal decided that a really good thing to buy with the credit card was a kayak.
Really, a kayak?

Only in Canada.

(Sarah, ducking.)

Ha ha ha

you would figure in Canada they would buy toques and beer . . .

When I was a kid, we lived in a townhouse development, and my mother woke up in the middle of the night to find a strange man standing next to her bed (who wasn't my father). He ran out of the room, and we heard he did the same in several other houses in our development. He was getting in through the sliding glass patio doors, which had flimsy locks. From then on we kept a rod in the track so it couldn't be opened.

I had a VW Beetle back in the early 80s that got broken into, to steal the stereo. Other than that, I've been lucky.

Well, at least he's a nature loving criminal.

I once had my American Express card stolen from WORK! Right off my desk at the Plain Dealer. (I think I was using it to make an airplane reservation.) Called AmEx and they said wait until you see where they use it.

Bingo! Next day found out it was used at a Crazy Eddie in NYC.

That was before the Internet (1987 - don't get excited), so it was quite a feat.

I've had 2 brushes with burglars.
The first; I was married a year & we lived in the end apt of a 6 unit building. I had noticed a guy sitting in a phone co. truck on the parking lot that morning. He came to my door , said he was there to take the phone out (we didn't have a phone!) I told him that thru the closed door. He started pounding on the door, yelling to let him in. By that time I had gotten the pistol and was so pissed I just wanted to unlock the door, let him come in & shoot him! The landlord pulled up & the guy left. Hubby's boss knew someone at the phone co. & called him. Turns out the phone co. truck the guy was driving had been stolen the day before! It was found abandon the next day.
Second time I had just moved into a duplex the week before, my sis-in-law had picked up the kids for the weekend before I got home from work. I was strict with the kids about keeping the doors locked & out of habit, tried the door to make sure they had. It swung open & had pry marks on it! I got the .38 out of the car & went in, nothing had been touched! The only thing we could figure out was that the parakeet I had then would say 'hello' whenever the door opened & the burglar must have thought someone was there! A neighbor worked at a door factory & got me a good sturdy replacement & super deadbolt, which I deducted from my rent!
Had an attempted purse snatching once LOL, that's for another time.

My downstairs condo neighbor was burglarized while I was home on a snow day, and I didn't know it until much later when she got home and called the police. I realized I had heard a door close, but hadn't thought anything of it and couldn't say exactly what time it was . . . "I was reading, officer." Yeah, big help I was. Now that I think of it, everyone should be extra vigilant on snow days (and probably all summer, too). One of the functions (and original goals) of public school is to curtail youth crime -- no kidding!
I once had a dream of robbers at an apartment I was going to rent. I took back my deposit check, and yes, the people who rented it were robbed a couple of months later.

Saved by a parakeet....Classic.

I'll raise you one iguana -- Friends in Minneapolis had two "free-range" iguanas and a wonderful story of apparently frightened-away burglars. I tell it frequently, and another friend gave me a rubber iguana as a prop (which I can no longer touch, so it's double-bagged and I have to get a volunteer child to "wrangle" the iguana).
It's going to be one of the stories on the Frog Prince and Friends CD I'll make this summer.

Rita, You went and got your .38 for both incidences??? Are you in law enforcement?
Thank God you had it the first time. After telling him you had no phone to call the police, you would have been an easy target.

Kathy, sounds like we are very lucky to still have you around as well.

Although, none of these have ended really badly, they are scaring the willies out of me. (where does that saying come from?)

My brother had 2 apartments and a car broken into in Oakland (Pgh) over the years. The first one was the day he moved in. Bad guy climbed through the window from the fire escape and stole my brother's brand new racing bike. Mom became Super Mom and broke the lease, got their money back and found another apt immediately.

In the 80's my sister's boyfriend moved into a new apartment. With great glee he went and bought all new stereo equipment. Then went out for dinner. Came back and the new stereo - all gone, with the boxes, instruction manuals, everything.

We have a problem with what is called 'summer help' around here. This is where people leave their front doors unlocked and go work in their back yards. the summer help walks in and 'helps' themselves to whatever they can take in a hurry. If my front door isn't locked the dogs are in the house and I pity anyone who tries to come in uninvited.

many years ago when I had a GSD, I had a Jehovah's Witness come to my door. I told him, 'not interested please go away." He wouldn't leave. My GSD loved to go into a vicious dog act when he saw me fiddle with the screen door lock so I did, the dog showed his teeth and began his act. I told the guy to leave or I'd let the dog out...I think he's still running. 28 years later they still leave my house alone--do you think word got out?

DH had his van broken into and an entire craftman's tool chest complete with tools stolen back in the mid 70's.

My gas grill was stolen the night my hedges and old fence were taken down. Once the new 6 foot high fencing went in I felt more at ease.

DH got locked out the other day and spent over an hour trying to break in because I was sound asleep and didn't hear the doorbell. Sure does make me feel a lot safer knowing that even he couldn't break in and he knows all the weak spots.

If I had a dime for every time my purse, wallet was stolen, my house broken into or burglarized, my person mugged, assaulted, stalked, threatened with a knife, almost kidnapped, and that peeping tom guy staring through my bedroom window, well, I'd be able to take all you Lipstick people out for a glass of your favorite poison.

But here's my favorite:

Chicago. My office. 1989ish. Multiple purse snatchings. I ask my secretary to PLEASE lock the office door every time she leaves. She forgets and my purse disappears - AGAIN. I am irritated. I am pissed. I cancel all my credit cards. With the exception of one, which I forgot. 3 weeks later I get the bill. It's my phone card (remember those?) And on that bill are all the numbers that my thief called.

Now, I am livid. I am also Nancy Drew. I start calling all those numbers. No one picks up. I'm half-way down the list, smoke practically blowing out my nose when someone picks up and a woman's voice says, "Hello?"

Me: I know who you are. I know what you've done.

Woman: (Nervous.) I haven't done anything.

Me: Oh yes you have. You know exactly what you've done.

Woman: (More nervous.) No, no I... no - but-

Me: You're not going to get away with this. I've already called the cops. They're closing in on you. They're going to take you to jail. Enjoy spending plenty of time in the pokey.

Woman: I have to go now..

Me: That's right. Run you coward. Run. But you will be caught. And you will be punished.

She hangs up. I immediately dial the number to determine the location/address of any phone number.

It's a phone booth in the middle of the Cabrini Green ghetto. I was threatening and probably scared the poop out of some random woman who picked up a ringing phone at a public booth.


I've just had garden-variety burglaries, apartments, houses, cars, and some random identity theft.

I want to hear more about Miss California.

hijack -- a friend just sent a scan of the reviews page of Kathleen Ragan's _Outfoxing Fear_ which includes an excerpt of a review I wrote (and gave permission for use, of course), but I didn't think it would be in the actual BOOK. I'd be busting my buttons, except there aren't any buttons on a t-shirt . . .

Oh, Pammy, you cracked me up. I can only imagine.

About 36 years ago, when I was married to the cop, the apartment complex we lived in was experiencing a serious problem with someone cracking open the coin boxes on the laundry machines. I heard something going on downstairs, alerted the sleeping hubby, who was supposed to be the complex "security". He ran after the guy and nabbed him. Then HE got a commendation, and the asshole never once mentioned me, or my part in the capture.

Yeah, that's just one reason I got disgusted and left him. That, and his unfortunate little habit of screwing everything that moved, except his own wife. Which turned out great, since he wasn't that great in bed, anyway, I later learned. (He'd been my only.) Things happen for a reason.

JanetLynn, in the first incident, the only pistol we had was a .22, not a lot of stopping power! LOL
I was a reserve officer on the PD. We only had to have 360 hrs. at the academy.

It's good that you are sensitive and observant of the people who knock on your door. Burglars nowadays are very crafty in finding ways to get inside your home. The best solution is to secure all doors and windows locked whenever you sleep or leave your house unattended. :)

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