On an otherwise unremarkable autumn evening, we became another statistic.
Under cover of darkness and a sudden downpour, the crowbar gang went to work. Swiftly. They had to move fast, because I was just a few minutes up the road. So was my wife. Meanwhile, from next door, the neighbours were raising a ruckus. Our alarm was wailing and armed response and the police were heading our way as fast as evening traffic would allow.
No problem. By the time we arrived, the action was all over.
It wasn’t exactly clinically efficient, or terribly effective. They left behind a bunch of stuff, but got the TV and those few items of jewellery that had been placed in plain sight.
What really brings home the impact of a break-in – especially a violent one like this – is the realisation of what could have happened. And assuming you manage to get over that, there’s the PT of the aftermath. The damage. The wrecked gate motor. The buckled door frames. The looking over your shoulder.
It’s not the first time that we have fallen victim to this kind of crime. And, as always, the worst effect is the most long-lasting: the intrusion on one’s personal space.
Not that I’m suggesting that we had it particularly hard. Crime can be easy to get hysterical about. Frankly, there’s a lot worse that could happen and there’s far, far worse that others have experienced.
Yet, it’s also easy to become jaded about crime. Or to rationalise about it, to not care about it.
Like: it didn’t seem so bad after all that, just two days earlier, I’d been pickpocketed. During the evening commute, with timetables in chaos, on what was nominally the much-delayed 6 o’clock train, half of us were jammed into somebody’s armpit and the other half were clinging to the outside of the coaches. Right there, one of my fellow sardines lifted my cellphone. What the hell, it was probably an omen that I should get that upgrade I’d been putting off. Anyway, the contents were backed up. And the phone could be wiped remotely and blacklisted. Is it worth giving a damn?
Well, you could say my strike rate is on the high side. High enough to call for stern action, such as piling on ever more impressive layers of virtual armour. That should provide a comforting sense of security – until the paranoia kicks in, that is, and another bristling layer gets added. And, to be honest, the protection we already have is pretty standard for suburbia.
What about fighting back?
True story: once upon a time, in the days before beams and armed response and remote control, a younger me was confronted by a burglar. I went all Rambo and somehow – okay, probably by means of the crazed look in my eyes and the golf club I was brandishing – brought him to book. Against our recent three committed intruders equipped with crowbars, a firearm and a getaway car, similar bravado might end a whole lot less satisfactorily.
So, how to respond?
I think, at first, with a conversation. I want to hear what you think. Let’s get your best home security tips. Your thoughts on where this crime thing is going. Best letter gets R1 000.