Open letter to a thief

Pam Frampton
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“The real significance of crime is in its being a breach of faith with the community of mankind.”

— Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) in “Lord Jim”

Dear whoever broke into our house a couple of weeks ago: are you enjoying our possessions?

Have you spent all the change my husband had saved for years in the big glass jar? Did you buy yourself something nice? Why did you leave the lid behind? That jar was heavy, so you would’ve had to carry it with two hands. You’d think someone would have spotted you, slinking through a city park carrying a big pasta jar full of coins in the middle of the day.

What about the camera? Did you sell it for a quick buck? You could’ve made more if you had taken the lenses, too. Lord knows, they’re not much good to us anymore. Our son was interested in learning to use that camera, but then, you don’t care about that.

Why did you take an empty wallet? Did you think you would open it up once you’d left the house and find the mother lode? Guess the laugh was on you with that one, which is probably why you threw it away. I wish I could’ve seen the look of disgust and disappointment on your face. All that hard work for nothing.

What about the letter a friend wrote to me more than 20 years ago? Did you steal that because it was inside a velvet pouch and you thought you’d grabbed something more valuable? It was pretty valuable to me, but obviously it meant nothing to you, which is why you discarded it. At least we got that back.

Did you enjoy strewing the contents of my jewelry box around our bedroom? I mean the stuff you didn’t take, obviously. Did you see our clothes on the bed? The pictures of our kids? My parents? Us on our honeymoon? Of course, we’re all just faceless strangers to you.

Treasured gifts

What have you done with the very first pair of earrings my husband gave me? Did you sell them or is someone else wearing them? How about the lovely pair he gave me one Christmas? Those were such romantic gifts.

Do you like the bracelet my brother and sister-in-law gave me for being a bridesmaid at their wedding?

And what do you plan to do with my late father-in-law’s wedding ring? Know a buyer with a ring finger just the right size, do you? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reap its sentimental value; you don’t get anything extra for that.

Did you like being in our children’s rooms? Did you chuckle and shake your head at the unmade bed, or is that something you can relate to? Do you enjoy stealing from kids? Did you wonder at all why our daughter had a boy’s high school ring in her jewelry box? It was her dad’s, you know. Perhaps it dropped out of your pocket when you made your mad dash through the park, because we found it in the snow a couple of days later.

Did it make you feel powerful to know you spooked our little dog?

What did he do when you broke into our house? Bark? Act anxious? Crawl under the bed? Did you yell at him? Kick him? You must’ve done something, because when I took him out for a walk afterwards, he did not want to go back into the house — his house. He nearly jumps out of his skin, now, when he hears a loud noise.

He’s almost 13 years old and deserves every happy, peaceful moment he gets, for all the love he gives us. Do you care that you’ve shattered his sense of calm?

Do you care that you have robbed us of our peace of mind?

Not knowing who you are is worse than anything. Most people like to put a face and a name to the person who stole from them. You see, unlike the family that was recently robbed on Mullock Street, we didn’t have video camera surveillance. That could change, though. A lot could change.

I have changed.

You could care less, of course, but I am less trusting now. I am leery. The thought of you, a stranger, grabbing fistfuls of our possessions and personal mementoes, things that meant nothing to you but so much to us, makes me angry.

Did you know that the word violate comes to the English language by way of Latin’s violare, which means “to do violence to”? You might not find that very interesting — God knows you didn’t spend any time rifling through our books — but I do.

It’s very apropos. A break-in is a violation. It is a violent crime.

You don’t believe me? Trust me, you did violence to our family — it was all there in the frightened dog, the splintered wood, the drawers scattered on the floor.

In closing, might I offer you some career advice? Instead of stealing people’s stuff and selling it for money, you might consider getting a job in the more lucrative insurance trade. That’s where you charge people monthly payments for years, and when they try to avail of the service you purportedly provide, you warn them you’ll have to start charging them even more.

Great racket, eh? You’d be great at it, I’m sure.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Geographic location: Mullock Street

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Recent comments

  • Brad
    April 19, 2011 - 15:30

    Pam I am so sorry to hear about your troubles. It is sad that your privacy has to be invaded in such a destructive and senseless manner. At least you only lost material things most of which can be replaced, although the sentimentality value on somethings is irreplaceable. Take comfort in the fact that you have a loving family to support you and to help you cope with your losses. Unlike the loser(s) who broke into your life, you actually have a very fullfilling life full of purpose and are loved by a large circle of friends and family. Karma will get those people in the end and you will always come out on top.

  • Herb Morrison
    April 18, 2011 - 08:20

    To the person who convinently chose to hide behind the pseudonym wicked. Hey Pal, do you get a rush out of kicking someone when they are down and in pain. Pam has literally "bared her soul" in a public domain. That takes guts. The same kind of guts that both the theif who robbed Pam and her family, and people like like youself appear to lack.

  • Herb Morrison
    April 17, 2011 - 15:03

    Pam In Biblical times, the hands of a theif were cut off if they were convicted. While I wouldn't advocate something as barbaric, as punishment for a modern-day theif, I believe that sentences for theft should be based , in part, on a victim impact statement. Your column certainly fits the profile of such evidence. Such crimes are on the increase, and theives don't seem to be detered by sentences being meted out by judges. Most thefts reported in the media involve persons who are repeat offenders. Stiffer penalties are needed. The feelings of violation being experience by yourself and members of your family, leap off the page. A powerful and effectively written article. Hope those who enforce the law, and thoase who make the laws take notice..

  • Duffy
    April 17, 2011 - 10:12

    The best way to handle this in our society is to adopt Fla. laws (as David said above) and let us shoot the little scumbags. No repeat offenders, no money wasted on jail (if they ever go) and just helps the police out so they don't have to deal with this scourge at night on our streets..

  • philip mullett
    April 17, 2011 - 08:32

    Pam, we also had a breakin a few weeks ago and understand how you feel. I believe home invasions are the work of a few who has no respect for people at all. Our justice system has to change to provide stiffer sentences.A slap on the wrist is not good enough.

  • Peter
    April 17, 2011 - 07:28

    Pam, Please try not to lose all faith in humanity. For every one like the individual who broke into your home there are thousands who read your letter and were horrified, angered and sympathetic to you and your family. God bless you.

  • David
    April 16, 2011 - 17:57

    Here in Fla. if someone breaks into your home and you are there, you can shoot them to death and then call the police to come pick up the trash, case closed.

  • Wicked
    April 16, 2011 - 17:23

    Last week Pam was bashing Harper but I wonder now what she thinks of his 'tough on crime' garbage. But wait, maybe it was a Harper operative sending her a message - you don't mess with Big Stevie.

  • mbc
    April 16, 2011 - 06:48

    Our justice system has to be upgraded to deal with these scumbags. The penalties have to be such that even scumbags thinking about breaking in any house or business will stop in their tracks.

    • speedy
      April 16, 2011 - 12:30

      Pam, as I sat here and read your l;etter I became more enraged at each word you wrote, however what enrages me most as I sit here and read is knowing that if the same uncaring crook was to be breaking into our house right at this minute, I am not allowed by law to do anything except make a phone call, I cannot use any force to protect my family or property without facing jail time myself. We need greater punishment for crimes such as this. I truly symptaize with you and your family.

    • concerned
      April 16, 2011 - 18:27

      I almost cried when I read your letter and I can relate since we had our house broke into also. You are right- you cannot replace things that mean the most- like my deceased father's wedding ring that meant a lot to my mom. The hurt is unbearable. That's the problem today. We cannot enjoy our own homes, cars. Words of advise>>>HIDE EVERYTHING OF VALUE...and DON'T take for granted that it will never happen to you because it will when you least expect it. My heart stopped when you talked about your dog. They have no one to protect them while we are not at home, and that is far too scary. Stiffer sentences and punishment need to be enforced from our legal system for this problem to stop.- So judges I hope you read this.