“I broke into peoples houses and stole (their) property that they worked hard to get and hurt people that did nothing to me just to feed my drug addiction.”
— From one drug addict’s story in Waterloo, Ont.
Every day in St. John’s, three or four houses are broken into and robbed.
That’s just houses. That’s just St. John’s.
That does not include the businesses, cabins, sheds, cars and construction sites that are pillaged and plundered every single day.
You pay attention to those sorts of statistics when you’ve been robbed yourself.
It’s been seven weeks since we came home from work to find that our house had been broken into and our treasured possessions stolen.
I think about it often — wondering who the robber was, what he did with what he took, whether it will happen to us again.
I go home with trepidation now.
As I discovered through the flurry of emails, phone messages and comments I received after my initial column ran, my husband and I are now members of a club that none of its many members wanted to join.
In one two-day span on the May 24th weekend, four new members were inducted in my neighbourhood alone.
Poke around online and you’ll discover there are resources for break-in victims — tips on dealing with feelings of victimization and violation, hints on how to view your house through the eyes of a thief and take measures to safeguard it, ways to photograph and document your possessions to smooth the way for insurance claims after a theft.
Proof of possessions
But here’s the truth of it.
How many of us have proof of possession of every valuable we own? How many of us have receipts and serial numbers and exact descriptions? How many of us have chronicled the extent and value of our rare book or rubber band collection? How do I obtain, for example, proof that we ever owned my late father-in-law’s wedding ring, and how do I calculate the worth of something that can never be replaced? How do you figure out how much coinage can be tossed into a big glass jar over five or six years?
And guess what? Even if you had precise records of every stolen item from your house, and your insurance company accepted every aspect of your claim, chances are you would discover to your dismay that a) there’s a hefty deductible; b) your rates would be jacked up as a result of your claim; or c) both.
One reader I heard from had his house broken into twice and, as a result, his insurance company increased his deductible from $500 to $2,500. When he pressed the point that he had been a good customer for more than 20 years, the company relented and reduced his deductible to $1,500.
What a great reward for loyal patronage.
Our insurance company advised us not to bother filing a claim, which makes you wonder what the heck we’re paying premiums for every single month.
Here’s another fact: all the alarm systems and deadbolts in the world won’t keep robbers out of your house if they want to get in. Open window? No problem. Closed window? No problem. Locked window? You get the idea.
When it happens to you, the first things you think of are better locks, security cameras, an alarm system.
The police will tell you, off the record, that apart from the fact that good-quality security footage can help them catch a robber after a break-in, none of those measures will deter anyone who is intent on getting inside your house and stealing your valuables. They do it because they’re desperate, not necessarily because it’s easy.
Smash and grab
Earlier this month, for example, thieves broke into the Esso station in Whitbourne and stole merchandise, despite the presence of a security system.
“Culprits were able to gain entry through the front door to the business and were able to obtain a quantity of cigarettes before the alarm key holder and police arrived,” the RCMP reported.
Smash. Grab. Go. That’s how it works. A thief can be in your house and out, pockets and knapsack bulging, in two or three minutes. And all the alarms in the world will not prevent someone desperate for things they can sell, particularly if they have a nagging addiction to feed.
I don’t blame the police. They can’t patrol every single street every single minute of the day. And these break-ins are happening in every neighbourhood — rich and poor, day and night, in temporarily vacant houses as well as those where the occupants are sleeping in their beds.
Those are the facts. Reporting suspicious behaviour, making sure your doors and windows are locked and keeping an eye on your neighbour’s place can all help, but it’s going to take more than that to stem this crime wave.
Earlier this decade, the provincial government set up an OxyContin task force to tackle the drug problem behind a rash of armed robberies, particularly at pharmacies.
As the police can tell you, there are a lot more drugs out there than OxyContin, and they are creating a breed of reckless thieves who are increasingly bold in their attempts to get their hands on something — anything — they can steal. And once that’s sold, they’ll steal again.
It’s time to address the root of this problem.
All the locked doors in the world won’t keep it out.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.