A new resolution

Published 3:54 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

In my 72 years, I have never made a New Year’s resolution.

This year is different.

From now on, I am going to lock my car.

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I have always believed that if someone wanted something in my parked car, I would rather they simply open the door and take what strikes their burglarizing fancy rather than smashing their way in. Taking something from a locked vehicle could mean the burglar has a sharp instrument in his hand, like a hammer or crowbar, smashes a window or uses the crowbar to jam open and severely damage a door. Not only do you now have the loss of whatever the thief wanted from your car, you also have a damaged vehicle.

Several years ago after a few days vacationing in New Orleans, we were packing up getting ready for the return trip to Bainbridge. Our in-town bed and breakfast had a private garage where we could securely park our car off the streets and avoid the high probability of vandals. It was suggested that we leave the vehicle in the garage night and day, until we were ready to leave for home. Finally, ready to hit the road back to Bainbridge, we retrieved the car from storage, put all our belongings in the trunk, except for a highly decorated box of Kleenex sitting on the back seat.

There was a quaint restaurant a few doors down from where we packed the car in front of the bed and breakfast.

“Let’s have some breakfast before we start back,” we decided. While having a delightful breakfast in a delightful New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, a street thug, thinking the colorful Kleenex box was something of value, smashed the driver’s side window, spraying thousands of tiny pieces of safety glass in all directions inside the vehicle.

It was August, so we had a hot drive back to Bainbridge due to the absence of a driver’s side window.

Why am I changing my ways and making my first New Year’s resolution?

Earlier this week, about 3 a.m., my wife heard a noise outside our house. I got up, turned on all the outside lights, the front porch lights and the front floodlights. Looking out through all our windows, I saw nothing, heard nothing except a strange barking dog.

About 5 a.m., I got up again, all the outside lights still on, and looking out at my car in our driveway, there only a few feet away, a young black male was in the passenger seat of my car, going through my glove box.

My first reaction was to run out through the front door, and scream, “Hey, get out of my car.”

Reason quickly prevailed, since the young man might have been armed. Why take the chance.

So as I stood there in the dark room of our den, I observed the scene through the window at my car only a few feet away, bathed brightly in the lights from the porch and floods.

I dialed 911.

I described to the operator that I was in my den witnessing a burglar ransacking my car in my own driveway in front of my own house.

“Stay on the line,” she advised. She then asked me to describe what was going on. I told her it looked like a young black male wearing either a shirt or coat of black and white design. I said it looked like the arms and shoulders were white and the front of the garment was black.

“What is he doing now,” she asked.

I said he was getting out of the car, and there was a bicycle on the ground next to the vehicle. I said he was looking at something on the bike, adjusting something, then got on it, rode around the back of the vehicle, across the front lawn, then down the side of our house through the neighboring empty lot and was probably going to exit through the parking lot of the Church of Christ, which is almost in our back yard.

A few seconds later, the 911 dispatcher came on and said,

“They got him.”

A few minutes later, two police cars drove up to my house, and two officers investigated the scene. As one filled out a report, a third officer walked up from the church area and said the burglar’s name. All three officers knew who it was. One said, “He just got out of jail,” and another said, “Well it looks like he’s going back.”

The officers said there had been several auto break-ins in the area, and they had been on the alert looking for the intruder. One of the neighborhood cars recently entered, they said, belonged to a probation officer.

I thanked the officers several times for their great police work, and the manner in which they quickly responded and made the capture.

Since I rarely have anything of value in my car, all he gathered were a few dollars of loose change, which I routinely dump into the vehicle’s console. Looking into the console later, there were still a lot of missed pennies. As the officers drove away, and I thanked them again, I also resolved that maybe it would be a good idea to get into the habit of always locking the car, and the house, and just about anything else that has a lock and a key.

And I have been doing it ever since. It’s one thing to think about someone burglarizing your property, but when you actually see it in progress, it’s different..

Happy New Year, everyone. Lock up your stuff. Everything. 911 works. And so do alert Bainbridge police officers.