A few weeks ago at my neighborhood monthly Bunco game we heard the very sad and scary news that one of our dear neighbors had been robbed during the day while she was home. I'll never forget the hostesses announcement that "J " would not be joining us to play because she was sick and because she had been robbed the day before. She then played the message "J" had left on her phone. We all huddled around the telephone as we listened to the playback. Everyone strained to hear her soft, calm and sad voice retell the previous days events.
She had come home from work feeling tired and sick and went straight upstairs to settle down for a rest. She heard noises downstairs and thinking that it was her husband called to him. The thieves were surprised and quickly grabbed her purse (which she had sat on the kitchen table) and then ran out of the house. My friend got a sense of something being wrong and went downstairs to discover her purse gone and the door open. She reported the crime but in the short interim the bad guys had already made it to the local gas station where they filled the tank( 5 years ago I am sure that this would not have been a thieves first purchase) and then charged a few items at another store.
We had to listen to the recording twice because her voice was so soft in some parts. By the end of the second playback a very heavy mood had embraced everyone. Who couldn't imagine how easily it could have happened to them? We were all thinking about our community and how much we cherished the idea that we were safe and happy. My neighborhood is very unique and special. We actually know our neighbors and enjoy being with them. Throughout the years that I have lived here we have spent many lovely times visiting with the neighbors.
One lady organized a Bunco game and after the guys saw how much fun we were having, her husband organized a men's poker night. I'm hoping to get a couples poker game going in the future. We also enjoy hanging out in the driveway and watching our kids play in the street. You can call it "white trash" but I call it, "Party's on the Drive". It's fun. Our kids play and ride their bikes, while we eat pizza and drink beer. The kids have a great time and don't mess-up the house and the grown-ups get to hang-out. Over the years that I have lived here I have had the genuine pleasure of getting to know some really neat and nice people and I don't want that to change. I feel very fortunate that my kids have friends to play with and so do I.
Now, after hearing the recording everyone began to share stories about other break-ins. I was surprised at how much our neighborhood has been attacked. Certainly not one of the best conversation openers, "hey by the way I got robbed the other night" , but then again something that you need to know.
As the conversation developed we learned that a few neighbors had seen some kids hanging-out in the neighborhood on that day. Kids that aren't usually around. Although the instinct is to say, "they don't look like they belong here" the secondary instinct is, "it's probably okay and I should mind my own business". We have all done it. I know I have. I still remember my neighbor being away on vacation and they had arranged for people to stay in the house. One day the house sitters left the garage door open for a long time and I thought I should tell them that the owners liked to keep the door closed, but I didn't and they got robbed. A really nice bike was taken and other items. It would have been easy for me to say something but that good ole secondary instinct kicked in and I jumped to the, "It's probably okay and I should mind my own business thought". The owners had insurance and ended up getting an even better bike so everything was okay but this latest break-in happened while someone was home and that is a different story.
The entire night was changed. I really look forward to playing Bunco because it is a lot of fun and a time to relax with friends but after I heard that recording all I wanted to do was go home and get into bed. I felt sick from the thought.
As we all shared and talked the conversation evolved to - what can we do? The neighborhood had a Neighborhood watch program - we know that because the signs are posted. The signs are all rusty and beat-up now and no one can remember what happened to the program. So....
here I am organizing a new neighborhood watch program.
The first meeting is next Tuesday. I handed out flyer's last Saturday and I will post signs later this week to advertise. I hope that a lot of people will come and get involved, but my gut instinct is that too much time has passed since the last robbery and complacency has already set-in.
If you have ever done anything like this or are involved in a Neighborhood Watch program I would dearly love your thoughts and advise.