Hey, Anna-Liza here. Attention mental twelve-year-olds: the title of this post includes a reference to an old saying, but no euphemisms. Just sayin’.
After the posts about tricycle theives and S.W.A.T. team visits, this is just going to give you a terrible idea of our neighborhood. In fact, it’s a very nice old neighborhood with a mix of families and housing. We have (mostly) great neighbors and (mostly) great experiences here. However … stuff happens. So last night Darlin’ K prevented another theft. How’d he do that? Here it is in his own words – our very first guest post!
If I had been 10 seconds later out of my house with my bicycle, or had not taken my cell phone, he would have gotten away.
1 a.m. Friday night (okay, Saturday morning). I’m awakened from deep sleep by a dragging sound from the front yard of our house. At first I thought maybe someone was pulling (stealing) the kids’ wagon or tricycle or pedal-car through our yard. So I sit up and look out the window. Nope, the toys with wheels are all there. I still hear the dragging sound, and wonder if maybe it is our neighbor moving their big plastic trash can. Then I noticed that the 5’ high plastic play cube the kids use as a launching platform for the tree rope swing is GONE! I knew it was there 5 hours ago because our 5-year-old threw a bit of a tantrum about me telling him to get off of it to come inside for bed. But now, there was just an oddly empty-looking space of mashed lawn where it had been. Through the window now, I still hear the sound of something heavy and plastic being dragged, getting fainter now. FUCK!
We don’t have a back yard, but we do have an extra deep front yard. Which is where my kids and their friends and neighbor kids play. A month ago we had a tricycle stolen out of the yard, and it was sad, and a violation for us all. I still remember the look on my boys’ faces that morning we discovered that theft as they struggled to comprehend that someone unseen had taken something from them. (Fortunately, a wonderful person whose children had outgrown their tricycle donated it to our littlest boy, and he likes the new trike as much (or more) than the one that was stolen.) Since that last theft, the kids are more conscientious about picking up their toys and putting them next to the house rather than leaving them out next to the public sidewalk. But I had let the kids leave this 5’ high cube out closer to the sidewalk because that is where the big tree with the rope swing is, and because this big plastic cube is 5’x 5’x 5’ and weighs about 80 pounds and is not something that someone would just casually carry off. So I thought.
Exhibit A: BAPP Cube
So, now, I’m upstairs, in the middle of the night, sitting nude on the bed, looking out the window and hearing our big-ass plastic play cube being dragged down the street. MY KIDS’ Big-Ass Plastic Play Cube that they use every day and from which they use the tree rope swing that is the best thing in the world because it gets them outside and away from the Nintendo Crack 2008 or whatever it is and away from the opiate-of-the-masses-idiot-box. Dammit!
By now my wife (that would be me) is awake and I tell her what’s happening. She tells me she thinks we should call this one in to the police. I agree, but I also know that by the time the police get here, our precious Big-Ass Plastic Play Cube might be gone forever. So I quick pull on jeans (no underwear – TMI?), shirt and boots (no socks – TMI?), grab the cell phone, get my bicycle and pedal hard in the direction from where I last heard the sound of heavy hollow plastic being dragged across pavement. It is the middle of the quiet night, and the dragging sound stands out quite obviously. Very obviously. Whoever stole it is, for whatever reasons, not real concerned about being stealthy.
I follow the sound and get there just in time to see a guy pulling the BAPP Cube into his driveway and behind a 6’ high wood fence on a dead-end street a block away from our house. It is strange, seeing that thing that belongs to my family being taken away by this stranger – – suddenly, this is no longer an abstract disappearing of things with no identifiable “enemy” – no, this is quite real, he is right here in front of my eyes, taking something that I know is mine, and that he knows is not his.
I go to the other side of the street and into the shadows and call 911 on my cell phone. The nice dispatcher woman answers the phone asks what the emergency is. Somewhat winded from my sockless commando bike pursuit, I explain that the, uhhh, emergency is that someone has stolen a plastic cube from our yard and that I followed him to his house. “What was stolen?” the dispatcher asks. I reiterate, and she respectfully gives me a moment of appropriately solemn silence. Then, as she begins asking for the who-what-when-where, the dragging-of-heavy-plastic sounds have continued, except that now the guy is pulling the 5’ cube back out of his yard and down the street. Now what?!
I get concerned that if he drops the evidence then I won’t be able to identify him out of the forthcoming line-up of usual suspects for Big-Ass-Plastic-Play-Cube Theft, so I casually ride past him to try to see his face. (I, being a lone, sockless, casual bicyclist, riding one-handed, with a cell-phone at my ear, down his dark, quiet, dead-end street at 1 a.m., might have a looked a little out of place.) However, since it is 1 a.m. it is dark. This makes it hard for me to see his face, which is further shaded from the streetlights by his baseball cap. And, since I’m a lone sockless bicyclist on his dead-end street at 1 a.m. and since I cannot tell if he has a knife, hand-gun, hand-grenade or M-16 tucked under his clothes, and since he’s quite a bit more muscular than I am (which is not saying much actually – although I’m a tall guy, Madonna is more muscular than I am), I decide not to get real close, but instead whiz by on my bike, coasting out of his grabbing-and-maiming range. Meanwhile, as I’m bicycling one-handed talking on the phone with 911 dispatch, Mr. Thief has continued to keep a steady pace dragging the 80-Pound-Big-Ass-Plastic-Play-Cube-Of-Doom away from his lair of stolen treasures.
I ride a little ways away, out of the dead-end street and stop in the shadow of a big tree, and keep giving the 911 dispatcher the play-by-play. “OK, now he’s dropped the cube at the corner of ___ & ____, and is walking towards me. Ok, now he’s chasing me. Please hurry. I’m pretty sure I can get away from him with my bicycle…” I ride away, faster on my bike than he can run, with him talking trash at me as he pursues. Some part of my brain, the part that says “You son-of-a-bitch you stole something from my kids that they really like”, makes me slow down a bit, just to egg him on in the chase a little longer – – I want him to keep chasing me, to get him further from his house, and to buy a little more time for the cops get here. He chases me a few seconds longer, then gives up and starts walking back to his house.
Just then two police cars, without lights or siren, pull up and shine their spotlights on him and me. Then a third car arrives, and a fourth from behind me. Wow. It worked. The cops got the bad guy. They were on my side.
The cops ask what is going on, and the guy who took the cube starts telling the cops “That guy is following me”. But I have been talking with dispatch this whole time, and the police have him sit on the curb, and one officer takes me aside to get my info. Everything that happens after that is all pretty calm and quiet. And I feel relatively safe. I call my wife to let her know I’m fine, and one of the cops helps me carry the big play cube to our home a block away.
One of the cops tell me that the guy who took our cube is in his late 20’s, and is just someone who is intoxicated and did something stupid. He asks if I want to press charges. Another cop walks over and says they are going to take the guy to the detox center, and also asks if I want to press charges.
What was the thief thinking when he decided to take a 5’ high plastic kids playground cube from someone else’s yard? Does he have kids? Was he thinking that he’d be a hero in the morning because he’d gotten his kids a cool thing to play on? Or maybe he was going to give it to some nieces or nephews that live out of the neighborhood and be the hero uncle? Maybe he too is under-employed and wanted to provide his family or friends with something so that he could feel more worthy.
Was he just going to pawn it? Not the easiest thing to carry around.
Maybe he stole it because it was private property just sitting next to a sidewalk and… because he could.
Did he consider that since this was a kids playset, that maybe those kids might be sad that he took it away?
The cops said he was just drunk and did something stupid. But being drunk is no excuse. Even in those few times in my 20’s when I was very drunk, too drunk to even walk, I still knew what was right and wrong – – I still knew not to steal. (Or to assault, or rape).
The cops asked me if I wanted to press charges. Respectfully they asked, though I suspected one of them was thinking that it was just a dumb plastic kid’s toy not worth worrying about.
I think of the few hundred women and teens and men who I’d helped train in self-defense classes when I was working with Model Mugging/Fast-Defense/RMCAT. At least half of them had been raped or assaulted, many when they were young teens. Or younger. Many, maybe most of the perpetrators of these crimes had been multiple offenders, who’d been let go, and who had never had to answer to anyone but themselves and God for what they’d done.
I think of my friend who has been stalked for over 30 years by a guy who’d been arrested and released many times on various charges against various people before he finally got put in jail for the long term. It took a lot of arrests, but they finally got him off the streets.
I think of my cousin who was murdered by 2 people who’d been in and out of jail and mental institutions before they killed him. Maybe if more people had pressed charges, my cousin would still be alive.
I think of my birth mother who was killed by a drunk driver when I was a little younger than my youngest son. That drunk driver had a history of alcohol charges. Maybe if more people, or even just one more person had pressed charges to enable the justice system to intervene, then I would have had the chance to get to know my birth mother when I was growing up.
So, ok, this time it was just a kid’s plaything, well worn, and worth maybe $50 as is. I could have just let it go, decided not to press charges. Not go through the hassle of a court date. Not make myself a target for retribution. But … no.
Whatever his motive, this guy this night chose to take what belonged to someone else for his own gain. He stepped across that line between personal desire and respect for others, and chose to disregard the other person: “Fuck you, I’ll take from you what I want.” Or maybe it was something less personal. Maybe he just thought, “Hey, I want this … ” while at the time experiencing only a vague, back-of-the-mind awareness that it was wrong. He said, somewhere in his mind, “I don’t care what you want, I’m going to take what is yours and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” That is not something to be allowed in this world. First it’s a play cube, then it’s a sovereign (albeit oil rich) nation.
I cannot stop all the evils of the world, but I can do this little bit in the hopes that it will make our world a little better. Maybe it will help the world be a bit safer, maybe it will turn him into a hardened con and make the world more scary, but I’ll choose to err on saying no to bad guys this time. Or rather, saying no to people doing bad things.
Plus, the dude that stole our cube was chasing me, and I don’t think he just wanted to ask me for a cigarette.
So I tell the officers that Yes, I do want to press charges.
It might end up being just a municipal ticket for him, unless he doesn’t pay, in which case I will get a subpoena to testify against him.
If this is his first arrest, then maybe this will make him think more if he contemplates some other crime in the future. If this is not his first arrest then he should definitely get this intervention. Arrest. Arrêt. Stop. Interrupt. I’ll leave it to the judge to decide the appropriate penalty for him.
Now, I may have made an enemy. He may blame me for him going to de-tox, or to jail, or having to pay a fine. I could just drop the charges against him, and hope that he will leave me alone because I let him get off easy. I am indeed concerned that he might want to get back at me. But if he tries, then he’s really going to be in trouble. “Listen man, I called the cops on you for petty theft, I sure as hell won’t hesitate to press charges for a greater crime.”
How much do we give up and let the bad guys have their way in the hopes that if we don’t make waves then they will leave us alone? It is good to know that we are not alone, that we have our neighbors and police on our side. I am glad to know that my wife and I have had good self-defense training. Though I am suddenly much more aware that I am not in as good shape as I wish I were.
When I got home from this little adventure, my wife, who had gotten dressed (including socks, bra, and panties too, I presume – TMI?) was waiting. She had been sitting on the front porch while I was gone, listening for sounds of yelling, fighting, or who knows what, ready to run down the street and jump into a fight if needed … It’s good to have people on your side.
What will we tell our kids? I’ll probably leave out the part about him chasing me until they are older – – I don’t want my 5-year old, with his limited perspective, fixating about some bad guy out there who might want to hurt Daddy. But I will tell my kids the rest of it, so that they are more aware that it is the nature of some people to disregard the rights of others, and so that my kids will maybe be more conscientious about picking their toys up. (Trust in God, but tie your camel. If you leave your jar of honey uncovered, it may have ants in it tomorrow.) Maybe our yard will even look nicer with the tricycles, wagon, etc. all put in one place so that they are farther from the street. Far away from the public sidewalk and, sigh, maybe locked together.
I’ll be talking with the neighbors, just so they can be more vigilant too, both for their sakes, and because I will feel a little bit safer thinking that maybe my neighbors are also looking out for us. On the side of the rule of law. On our side.
And, I am going to put the big cube back out there next to the rope swing on the big tree near the front of our yard. Yep, right out there close to the public sidewalk where all God’s children play and walk by. But this time I’m going to tie down the Big-Ass-Plastic-Play-Cube-Tree-Rope-Launchpad-Of-Joy with some Big-Ass-Rebar-Stakes-Of-Improved-Security.
And, I’ll be doing more stretching and exercising too, so I can be in better shape, just in case…