Twenty-one years ago our family moved to what we thought was a sleepy small town—Fort Bragg, California. In reality, we entered a hot bed of criminal activity.
Nine months later, we became victims of the crime of the decade. We were startled awake in the middle of the night by the sound of cops pounding on our front door.
Did we own the Chevy Blazer parked out front?
Did we know the tires and wheels were missing?
We did not.
The perpetrator left the car balanced on blocks of wood. At first light, a detective arrived and did his detective thing. Throughout that Sunday, strangers came to our door to ask if we knew our vehicle was propped up on wooden blocks.
The cops had a suspect in mind and quickly nabbed him. He lived down the street and owned a Chevy Blazer a few years older than ours. It was sporting fairly new tires. On the floor of the vehicle was a knife that matched the puncture holes in the dozen or so tires that had been slashed the evening of the theft of our tires and wheels.
The suspect’s explanation for taking our tires was simple: within a few weeks he was scheduled to report to the Navy in San Diego. In order to travel safely, he needed new tires.
The cops wanted this guy out of town. They asked us to forego pressing charges in exchange for the kid making financial restitution. We agreed. He went off to serve his country. This made me feel safer (not for our country, but for our town).
A mere fifteen years would pass before we once again became crime victims.
I had arrived home from my Thursday morning volunteer work in a first grade classroom. I was in my office giving thanks that I had not chosen to teach first grade for a living when I heard two male voices coming from outside. I looked out the window and saw nothing.
Gary was in the kitchen down the hall watching television and eating lunch. I shrugged the voices off as coming from the television program.
About five minutes later, our neighbor Larry knocked on our back door. (Our backyard can be accessed through a gate from the alley.)
He said, “Did you see those two guys go through your gate? I think they went into your garage. A few seconds later, they came out with what looked like a bottle of juice.”
Our garage is located about 25 feet from the house. We use the workbench inside as a pantry to store things like bottles of fruit juice and paper towels. During this period in our lives, we had a couple of ancient cats who preferred to live outside. We kept the garage door open so they could seek shelter.
It was eleven o’clock in the morning. Gary and I were both home. The voices now made sense. We’d been ripped off!
Larry witnessed the activity from his window across the alley. “They rode up on bicycles and dropped them in your driveway. I thought they might be Harrison’s [our son] friends, but I remembered he’s away at college. They took the juice and headed north.”
Gary thanked him for telling us.
My hair ignited. Two guys had the audacity to come onto our property in plain daylight and steal something that belonged to us. It was only juice, but it was our juice!
I grabbed my car keys and raced to the garage.
“What are you doing?” Gary hollered.
Gary has mobility and eyesight issues—otherwise he would have tackled me and wrestled the keys from my hands.
“I’d help you, but I have a meeting,” Larry said.
“I don’t need your help,” I growled.
I sped north through the alley and drove up and down the streets of our neighborhood. I mumbled the speech those dirty thieves would get when I found them. It contained a lot of “F” words and a guarantee to kill if I caught them on my property ever again.
I widened my search and still could not find them. It took some time for reason to grip me. “What if you issue your threats and later they retaliate by doing something like spraying graffiti on the garage or burning the house down while you sleep?”
I draped the veil of shame over my head (it was in the glove compartment) and returned home to apologize to Gary and Larry for shouting at them. I called our handyman and scheduled him to install a lock on the garage door.
I’ve spent the following six years preparing for the next assault on our property. I cannot reveal the security measures I’ve taken, but warn anyone who thinks of trespassing: Lucy is mastering some amazing ninja skills in Puppy Kindergarten.