I was really looking forward to March 1st, 2011. My parents were coming to visit, my mom and I had tickets to attend a favorite author’s book signing and it was the final dress rehearsal for my son’s school musical. I felt like we were turning the corner on winter and getting ready for spring with happy plans and good times.
I planned to come home from work early to clean up a few last-minute things but instead found myself standing in the driveway while the police searched our house; we had been robbed. Daytime residential burglaries are at record high levels and my home was one in a string of robberies that day. Knowing we were not alone in this experience didn’t help me feel safer the next day however and it certainly didn’t help us through the painful conversation with our 9-year-old son. It also didn’t help with the hundreds of hours spent with the police department, court system, banks and insurance companies. This is the kind of crime that happens quickly but takes an emotional toll with years of work and stress to resolve. Tonight while typing this post, I am still exchanging emails and phone calls with our insurance company discussing reimbursement for items on our claim.
My goal today though is not to reminisce about what we lost. Instead I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to reach out to someone in your area and say hello. We live in a traditional suburban neighborhood and two years ago were the new family on the block. We happily waved hello to neighbors driving by but didn’t take the next step to introduce ourselves. During their brief investigation the police found several people around us who had noticed a different car parked in our driveway and one person saw two men in hoodies walking around the house but no one knew us well enough to feel comfortable calling 911 and report suspicious activity.
We have since made a point of following the easy wave with a hello and a smile. Now I slow down and visit with the regular dog walkers, my UPS delivery man and my postal carrier as these are the people who see our street every day and are usually the first to notice something unusual. My UPS packages are kindly left at the back of my house instead of the front door and I have encouraged several friends to establish neighborhood watch programs in their local areas. We have installed an alarm system and use a credit monitoring service and two years later I am successfully replacing my fearful memories of open closet doors, empty dresser drawers and finger print dust in my bathroom with newer, happier ones.
This post has been waiting in my drafts folder for a few days while I thought about whether or not I should click publish. Initially the theme and tone felt too different from my planned subjects of books, home, gardening and Northwest travel and I want this blog to be a place where I share the good things in my life. Today I reopened the file with a fresh set of eyes and saw perhaps the two themes are not so different after all. I believe strong communities are where we can find security and WordPress is a wonderful place to reach out, say hello, and meet new “virtual” neighbors.
My local police department has issued a list of tips to help avoid a residential burglary here. If just a few fellow WordPress members take these tips to heart and perhaps prevent a crime in their community I will feel publishing this post was the right choice to make.