Sunday, June 29, 2008

How to Handle a Thief

I live in a bad neighborhood.

Okay, maybe that is not quite true. I live in Sacramento's Northern Ghetto... East Del Paso Heights. (South Sacramento is the Hood - where the gangs reside... we live in the Ghetto - its just full of poor people).

I bought my house here in 2004, a couple years before the Real Estate Peak in Sacramento and across the state. When I decided it was time to purchase a house I took many factors into consideration... location and price were keen among these.

Price-wise I did not want to exceed $200K because I did not want to have an unmanageable mortgage. My broker told me I could qualify for a house twice that price... but those who said yes to that tempting offer are now suffering the foreclosure syndrome.

I stuck with my figure and decided that North Sacramento, East Del Paso Heights would be my best bet. The other options was Oak Park. A more adanvced and developed neighborhood, but still a part of the Hood.

I chose a street North Sac with mainly homeowners, some who had been there for 30+ years, and a home that was recently renovated, and not yet on the market.

Overall the neighborhood has been great. Good people, occassional disturbances, but a far cry from my former residence in the beautiful and affluent East Sacramento, where I was a renter.

One of the most notable differences... in the ghetto, everyone hangs out in their front yards... in more affluent communities, we tend to hang out in our back yards. I guess here most back yards are filled with cars, junk or other stuff!

Anyway... back to the reason for this post... on Friday, June 27, my house was burgled. A couple kids broke in and stole my laptop and some other valuables.

Now, I happened to get lucky in that my neighbor (a couple Hispanics who rent) saw two kids walking through our back alley (all houses out here build in the 40s have alleys) carrying a laptop case. They followed the kids and saw them head into a house nearby.

But I am getting ahead of my story...

I had rushed out of the house earlier in the day to consult on the development of the 42nd Annual World Chili Cookoff and Music Festival in Sacramento. When I got home about 5:30 or so, I walked into the house and found the back sliding glass door ajar. It seemed strange to me... my first thought was "I can't believe I left that open... my AC bill is going to be HUGE!" Then I considered it further and realized that I did not, in fact, go outside that morning so it should not be open. I closed the door... walked cautiously into the living room... looking around with a odd combination of bemusement and dread. Then I saw it. My old Treo 600 and charger cord laying on the living room floor.

"How in the hell did that get there?" Then it struck me... my cool US Luggage ballistic nylon laptop back was gone. My old Compaq laptop was gone. And the cash I had stashed away was gone. Nothing else. The Golf clubs, the DVDs, the other computers... nothing else was gone.

I immediately went out the back door and hopped over the fence into the overgrown alley but saw no-one. I then ran back, got my keys and decided to drive around. Nothing.

When I came back home, my girlfriend had arrived from work, and I noticed my hispanic neighbors hanging out... in the front yard, of course. So I asked them...

Yes! They had seen the guys walking down the alley. Not only that... the previous day two other houses were burgled. Two laptops and a bike were gone.

But my clever neighbors had followed the suspects and saw what house they went into. Perfect!

I got a couple other neighbors together who had been robbed, confirmed the story and said "Lets go to the house!"

Uh... no. I couldn't believe no one else wanted to go!?!?! They had been robbed. Someone had come in their house and violated their privacy and stole their property! I was irate. I wanted to confront the robbers. Why didn't they.

I called 911 instead and reported that I was about to confront the house where the thieves were. The operator took a report, said the Cops would come and take a report. 10 minutes passed. I couldn't wait any more. I asked one of the others to get in the car, drove over to the house, parked so he could see the front door. Walked over and knocked. "Hello?" the heavy set woman said as she answered the door... "do you have a set of jumper cables?" I asked while scanning the living room... she politely checked and came back with a no. "But the neighbors next door are nice and they should have some." I got nothing but good vibes from the lady, so I thanked her and then headed to my car, faked talking with someone else, then got in the car and drove home.

Still no cops.

After about 20 more minutes, I drove back to her house by myself... knocked on the door and, when she answered, I immediately apologized for lying to her.

Then I apologized for my next comment: "I have reason to believe that two men who robbed our neighborhood today and yesterday came into this house." She wasn't even shocked. I described the men. She said her son wasn't home yet but they should be back soon. I gave her my number, took hers and told her I wanted to help her and handle this without authorities.

I returned home.

Still no cops.

I decided to go about my business and see to my house. Making sure that this would not happen again.

After an hour or so, I went back to the house. This time the mom was gone, but her daughters were home. The mom was driving around trying to find her son. Apparently, according to the daughter, her mom had already called the kid's probation officer. "Probation officer? What was he in for?" "Armed robbery." "How old is he?" "14, almost 15."

Fourteen years old?!?!? How incredibly sad is that?!?!?! A fourteen year old felon broke into my home, stole my laptop and some valuables. I talked with the mom over the daughter's phone, got her cell number and returned home.

By now, over two hours had passed and still no cops. So I called the non-emergency number and was told they will send someone over when they are not dealing with other calls. I got a little irate, considering it had been two hours, asked her when I could expect them... after a bit of a run-around from her... I started really getting heated "this is ridiculous! If I lived in a nice neighborhood, they would have been here in minutes!" "No, sir" she said, "we are the same department and follow the same rules. Have you lived in another neighborhood?" I told her I had - having lived in East Sacramento for several years prior to buying in North Sac - and we definitely got MUCH faster response... while I was telling her this SHE HUNG UP!!!

Now, I could have called back immediately... but I wanted to cool down first. So an hour passed. No cops.

I called back, spoke with another lady and explained what I told the others... I know where the perpetrators live, I've been to their house twice, we are waiting for help... "you know where they live?" she asked. "Yes!" "Oh, well that is a different kind of call, they should not have put you down as a report." And she changed the call status. Within 20 minutes the Sacramento PD showed up at the door. I explained what happened, they took their notes, talked with the neighbors, gave me a report number and went over to the house to talk with the mom. They also warned me that CSI would come out to dust for prints and they would call me first.

They did. At 2:30 am. But that's okay... I was happy to wake up, let the lady in and facilitate the dusting.

We will see what happens next. Hopefully I hear something on monday.

I am not worried about the cash, that is probably lost forever... I am worried about the laptop. So many files from recent events... designs, etc.

I'm ranted out.

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