April 30, 2007

My Birthday Burglary

My recent birthday celebration was cut short after twelve hours and forty-five minutes. That night, I was taken out to dinner by friends, including Gwen. Early the next morning, she called to tell me that, sometime during our birthday celebration, her house had been burglarized.

Gwen rents a charming old one-story Spanish- style home that is commonly found in her neighborhood. The house has many original windows and French doors that swing inward, and that are fastened by only a simple latch. Ironically, the house was recently put up for sale, and Gwen is set to move out in a little over a week.

I came over the house the next day, just after the police had left. The cops concluded that the burglar or burglars had entered through an unlocked window. Apparently, the burglars had spent a good amount of time in the house, since they went through all of the rooms, the closets, and even the basement. They stole all of the good stuff, including Gwen's flat panel television, stereo, and more. They even stole some of her luggage, which they probably used to carry out the smaller items.

I inspected the window through which the burglars had allegedly entered, and I saw that the sliding lock had not worked for many years. It appeared to be the window's original lock. The wood in the window frame was rotted, and the screws designed to hold the "catch" side of the lock were not holding, and probably had not held for a long time. Also, the two sides of the lock didn't even come close to meeting, which they need to do for the lock to work, due to major warping of the windows and settling of the house over time. I took a more extensive look around the house, and noticed that many of the French doors and windows had bolts on them, but the bolts were heavily painted over and were stuck in the open position.

So I went to work. I picked up at least eight door bolts and several window locks, and installed them around the house. It was literally a case of closing the barn door after the cow had escaped. I felt like the Bush Administration after 9/11, taking security precautions after, instead of before, disaster struck. I'm upset that the homeowner rented a house that didn't even have working locks on all the windows, and the lawyer in me says that he has some legal liability here. The house has a demolition permit, and the homeowner has never showed up to fix up or even look at his house during the sale process. The place is being sold as a teardown because it sits on a large, valuable piece of property, and no one cares what condition the house is in. Except Gwen.

The cops were suspicous about the timing of the burglary. They said that the burglars must have cased the place to know when to strike. Indeed, the "For Sale" sign had been put up just a week or two before, and a bunch of people had just tromped through for an open house a few days earlier. The homeowner had given the keys to the real estate agent, the home appraiser, and others. Furthermore, a bunch of workmen have been fixing up the house across the street, and have had ample chance to spot Gwen's comings and goings. My hunch is that the burglar or burglars wandered in during the open house, where they had plenty of time to check out all of the potential loot, as well as all of the security features on the windows and doors, without raising the least bit of suspicion. It's a scary thought, and a lesson for all of us.

The good news is that the stolen property is only stuff, and it's replaceable. Gwen is safe, and, after I turned the house into a fortress, she feels safer about staying there for the final week. She is going to take a good hard look at her new place, and will require the building owner to take all necessary safety precautions before or immediately after she moves in, so that there is no repeat of my birthday burglary. If only the Bush Administration would do the same with our homeland security.


At 2:05 PM, Blogger globalchameleon said...

Scary stuff! Sorry to hear about all the stuff stolen from your friend, but good that she's unharmed. (On a brighter note: happy birthday!)

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Aileen said...

Wow. Very upsetting. I can't imagine how she felt to come home and find that! Please tell me the police didn't wait until the next day to come check out the house?!?

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

it's a little late, but wish you a happy birthday from the core of my heart.

and sympathy for your friend.


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