Friday, April 23, 2010

Crime comes home

Literally. Monday, somewhere between 8 AM and 3:30 PM, The Freehold was broken into.

As such things go, it wasn't so bad. They kicked in the back door, grabbed the big TV, Son's Xbox and an old laptop and ran. They left the door standing open.

Son discovered the crime when he returned home from school. He called me at work; I could tell something was wrong from the quivering word "Daddy?" Much to his credit, he followed my instructions accurately and quickly, de-assing the AO and moving to the rally point, our retired next door neighbors, whom he informed of the situation.

In the meantime, I was leaving work in a Big Hurry, calling the local 911 dispatch and being patched through to my home 911. Outside of Name, Address and Problem, I had the presence of mind to tell them that I am a CCW holder and darn skippy I would be arriving home armed, and to please let the deputies know this. I called Mrs. Freeholder on her cell and got no answer, so I left a message and called her likely stops along the way home and asked them to have her call if they saw her.

By this point I was out of the city limits and things like speed limit and stop signs took on the nature of "It's dangerous to read when you're driving" as I tried to shorten the normal 45 minute trip to -5 minutes. I made it in 30, and I was the last person, family or law enforcement, to arrive.

Now, many of you may argue my priorities, but the worst thing that could have happened (outside of someone walking in on the crime in progress) is that one of our cats may have escaped the house. We love our cats greatly; they are all inside pets and declawed. We have coyotes in the neighborhood. This is Not Good, and that thought occurred to me halfway home. I called Son and asked him if he had been allowed in the house, and he had been. I told him to start finding the cats.

When I arrived, that search was continuing. I had to work with the deputies to handle a brief visual inventory of the house. Thankfully, no one had even tried the gun safe, and the ones that were outside the safe (yes, it's stupid that any were; more on that shortly) were all accounted for. The only loss I could add was the discovery that my laptop was gone. Luckily, that was a secondary machine and nothing of import was on the drive.

I joined the search for the cats, as only 3 of 5 had been found. I found Number 4, and about that time a deputy called out that a cat had just ran into the open door. Number 5 was home, and the true tragedy was averted.

We finished up with the deputies, and then I made some temporary repairs to the door so that it could be secured. I had already alerted the insurance company, so that was covered. We tried to calm down and eat supper, and were modestly successful at both.

I began turning things over in my mind. In the last year, we had replaced the original doors with stronger steel doors with reinforced latch and lock plates. Obviously, they weren't strong enough, so I researched even better doors. One data point I noted with interest is that, in the Country Formerly Known As Great Britain, there seems to be a tremendous market for such things. I can only assume since the law-abiding population has been nearly totally disarmed and self-defense has been made nearly illegal, their somewhat free market has responded appropriately.

In the US, unless you want a vault door, choices are more limited. However, I did find a door made by Therma-Tru which offers high impact resistance and a 3-point locking system along with reinforcements in the frame. A local big-box store can special order them.

The next step was a burglar alarm. I have long resisted the notion that one was necessary, holding the opinion that if you lived in a neighborhood where you needed one, you were living in the wrong neighborhood. The day's events had proven to me that the universe has just called BS on that one. Three potential purveyors of the systems were selected and contacts made via their web sites.

The safety of what I call the "ready guns" was next up, and so far has been the most difficult. I grew up shooting long guns, and while I own and shoot pistols, I am not at my best with them. My go-to gun is a Mossberg 500 in 12 gauge, equipped with a tactical light and a sidesaddle of extra ammo. For many years, it has sat beside the bed. I want it there, but obviously there needs to be some way to secure it. I think the solution for my situation is the Mossberg Loc-Box, and one of those is on order. For the pistol that stays handy, I'm thinking some sort of lock box, but for now I decide to deal with the issue by putting it in the safe when I leave home.

A detective from the sheriff's department arrived the next day and we went over everything again. Upon close examination, we found that the back door had taken 5-6 kicks to break through. He tells me that's much better than average. That is some comfort, but not the performance I had hoped for. We discussed the mechanics of home break-ins, and he offered some suggestions relating to doors and burglar alarms. We talked about a lot of other things as well and found we both have a fondness for shooting, and are going to try to work out some range time together.

Later that afternoon, we went to the local big-box store and ordered the new doors; one to replace the damaged one, one to harden the other door upstairs. The man-door in the basement will be hardened in a different manner, since it already has a steel frame set in concrete.

At this point, we have talked to the alarm companies. One refused to even visit our home and pretty much ruled themselves out for me. The second to be ruled out took almost a day to get in touch, and the well-tattooed young man who came to visit us did not inspire any increase in my comfort level. At least they didn't look like jail tattoos.

The company who got the work is CPI Security. They are a relatively local firm, working in North and South Carolina. Their technology is excellent as far as I can tell. They made contact with me at 8:02 AM the morning after I submitted their contact form. They have answered innumerable beginner questions, and their representative who visited with us last night, with a demo system in a big Pelican case, pretty much cinched the deal for them. He offered a lot of low-to no-cost things we can do to improve the security of our home--before we signed on the dotted line. The installers arrive Saturday to install the system.

So far, the thing that angers me the most is not the break-in itself, but what this is going to cost my family, not in the stuff that was stolen (insurance and a $500 deductible is handling that), but in what we will forgo this summer because of it. The expenses of ramping up our security, both in acquisitions and installations, will approach $4000. Add to that the $500 insurance deductible. The NRA Annual Meeting, which I have been looking forward to for a year, has went for a 4 day/3 night birthday present to a day trip if I'm lucky. The trip to the beach this summer is canceled. Some other improvements around the house will be deferred or scaled back. Daughter is in college and money is tight, we will have to sacrifice luxuries for necessities in order to keep the budget in balance. (Maybe someone should talk to Congress and the Big O about that concept.)

In the Good News Department, I got a call from the detective on the case that a homeowner ran into the Crackhead Choirboys Wednesday, coming in through a window of his home. He had a baseball bat; they had a Bad Day At Work. While they have not confessed to the break-in at our house, their vehicle was seen at the scene of some of the other 5 break-ins that occurred in our immediate area that day, so we all feel that it's a decent bet they were the ones. Two are already on probation for various previous crimes; none are over the age of 21.

So there we have it. Learn from my mistakes and what I can only term my willful blindness to changing circumstances.

5 comments:

Conservative Scalawag said...

Sorry that this happened to you,and that all the cats were located..I can relate to your worry being a cat owner myself. Also that all of you are okay. Glad this didn't happen when your son was home alone. But nice to see you have a plan,and he put into action. Sounds like he has a head on his shoulders.

cmblake6 said...

Bloody Hell, bro. Hang tough and lock down.

kirk said...

That does indeed suck.

That may be the one benefit that dogs have over cats. That keeps the bad guys thinking second thoughts about coming in the house with all the noise they make when someone is on their turf.

We live on a main road but back a bit, so it is fairly dark. They have hit our garage 3 times trying to steal my dirtbike.

After the first time I put in an active infrared alarm system in the garage. So I knew immediately once they had set foot in the garage.

I also know the response time of my police now, not great but could be worse.

Nothing says go away like Mr Shotgun, followed closely by our rescued Politically Incorrect Dog. I think I really scared them the last time as they have not been back in over a year.

GunGeek said...

Glad it turned out as un-bad as it did.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain to people that live in "good" neighborhoods that the crooks may be stupid, but they're smart enough to know where the good neighborhoods are. If you wanted to steal something of value, where would you go? To a "bad" neighborhood where people needed to have alarm systems? No, you'd head right on over to the nice areas where people have lots of good stuff to take.

The truth is that you may have more need for an alarm system if you live in a good area than if your home is in a bad one. Proximity to the bad areas is far more relevant than what your particular neighborhood is like. Even they break into a place a mile away, instead of having to travel 5 miles, that's generally what they'll do unless they think they'll get enough more from the distant house to make it worth the trip.

Linoge said...

Wow, that flat-out sucks, but it is good to hear that nothing major got lifted, and the cats were recovered... Thanks for sharing this - we just purchased a new house, and definitely need to look into securing a few things.