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There Goes The Neighborhood

Superficially, my neighborhood seems to be gentrifying like gangbusters. In practice, I'd never had any real crime-related problems in almost two years living here until this week. But tonight for the second time in seven days someone has walked right up to my door and tried to get in while I was sitting right there in the living room. It's a kind of freaky experience. It also makes you wonder what they're teaching in burglary school these days. At a minimum, the criminal penalty for robbing a live person inside a house is way higher than that for burglarizing an unoccupied residence. Never commit a violent crime when a property crime would suffice!

December 31, 2005 | Permalink


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I'm sorry to hear it. Sounds quite scary.

Of course, were I a burglar, I'd much rather rob a gentrified neighborhood than an impoverished one, assuming -- falsely, no doubt -- equal security barriers for both neighborhoods.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Dec 31, 2005 2:14:13 AM

Had something similar happen when I lived in midtown Memphis years ago, although my roommate was the one at home (and asleep; she was a nurse working nights that week), although I guess that the putative burglar was assuming that the apartment was empty during the day, roommate's car parked in front notwithstanding. Scary stuff-- after getting a new deadbolt, we got an actor friend to basically live on our couch until she went back to day shift.

Posted by: latts | Dec 31, 2005 3:46:38 AM

Most professionals will scope the place patiently and completely to be sure it is empty, and then do a very quick entry and exit during the day. 15 minutes being too long.

But it isn't the professionals we need worry about. It is opportunistic and desperate and stupid amateurs. I once had a guy get his fingers on my second story open screenless windowsills. Good jumper. I leaned out and looked at him from 2 feet separation and said "Hi" and he went away.

Very few B & E dudes will want a confrontation, or a violent crime rap. If someone gets in, smile firmly and let him run away.

Or buy a shotgun.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 31, 2005 4:16:37 AM

Oh, and of course dogs are your best bet, even small ones can make noise. Burglars hate noise. My damn cat let em get my stereo once.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 31, 2005 4:19:30 AM

yes, you had big old wreck to protect you! but really, i'm sorry. that is very freaky. glad they didn't succeed.

Posted by: catherine | Dec 31, 2005 10:09:17 AM

Not nearly as alarming, but I once lived in a first floor apartment with a bay window in the bedroom looking out left to the front door and the head of the bed in the bay. One night I awoke to see a guy finish urinating on the front steps, just a couple of feet away. Charming.

Posted by: JL | Dec 31, 2005 10:17:02 AM

It might be the same someone both of those times, which on the one hand would argue against the entire neighborhood going bad on you, but also implies that someone really wants to get in, so maybe that's not so great either.

Posted by: DonBoy | Dec 31, 2005 10:24:26 AM

He probably saw the HDTV. If you don't have renter's insurance, I'd get it right now.

Posted by: tom | Dec 31, 2005 10:50:37 AM

Get a dog. Seriously. We were broken in on 3 times in about a year and a half. After the worst -- totally ransacked the place looking for non-existent drugs -- I was home cleaning up. (Every box of knick-knacks emptied. Flour bins. Sugar sacks. Everything. The place looked like a whirlwind had hit it.) I noticed a man sitting in his car in front of the house. I also noticed that he slouched down in teh seat when a postal truck drove by. I pointedly went out to sweep the porch. Lots of large sweeping gestures. Lots of stepping to the front of the porch to smack the broom against the walk. The guy drove away. I immediately called the wife at work and told her to get the dog we'd been debating getting. We were never broken in on again.

I think crooks just believe that you'll spend your insurance money to get the replacements for whatever it was they stole. If you're easy once, you'll always be easy. Or maybe the guy in front of the house had left something behind and wanted it back.

Also, please note: burglars are usually from your neighborhood. I saw the suit I'd been married in walking down the street a block from my house around 6 months after the last break in. Mega-high blood pressure anger.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | Dec 31, 2005 10:51:06 AM

I have a dog, and he does, indeed, go berserk whenever intruders/deliverymen/friends show up at the door.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Dec 31, 2005 1:33:26 PM

Dogs are good-- mine is fairly large, black, and has been known to bite (dominance-aggression issues), so I have a couple of Beware of Dog signs up. He's always inside when I'm gone, but a smart criminal who wanted to get in while I was at home would probably just let the dog out the side gate so he'd be a couple of blocks away by the time I needed him. He's a good warning system & probably is a deterrent, though.

Come to think of it, we had a dog in Memphis, too-- she was just a little cocker spaniel, but cockers have more full-sized barks instead of just yipping. I guess she was asleep upstairs with my roomie when that person was trying to remove our deadbolt.

Posted by: latts | Dec 31, 2005 2:35:33 PM

Time of year is also a factor here, I'd guess. The time around Christmas tends to be a big one for break-ins because people tend to have lots of nice stuff lying around then. Also, in a place like DC, where virtually none of the gentrifiers have families here and all go someplace else for the holidays*, criminal-types know it's a good time to hit people's homes. Most of the major crime-type things that have affected me since I've lived here have been around this time of year.

*(Absolutely no one I knew stayed in town over Christmas, including my Jewish friends who had free vacation time and took advantage of it, so I ended up having to cart my cat halfway across the country b/c there was no one to feed her. Flying with cats is not something I'd strongly recommend.)

Posted by: flippantangel | Dec 31, 2005 2:38:58 PM

Matt -- you have a dog and you don't spam the internet with adorable picture of him/her on your blog? What's wrong with you? Don't tell me you have a cat and have been hiding that from us too?

Are you making some kind of a bold statement against conventional internet mores or something by refusing to bare your pets to us?

Posted by: Julian Elson | Dec 31, 2005 3:55:04 PM

Superficially, I just peed on your front stoop.

Posted by: pizza man | Jan 1, 2006 12:20:19 AM

It's probably my fault. I've been spreading a rumor that y'all serve carviar at your parties.

Seriously, your intruder-stories sound super-creepy.

Posted by: Roxanne | Jan 1, 2006 2:48:00 AM

This is beautiful country! You can work hard and make good money. Or, you can scam and rob. Survival of the fittest! It's also a nation where you can bear arms (exp. California...) and defend yourself. I hope you don't live in California!

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