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David Bouchier: Suburban crime wave

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I thought I was living in a genteel and secure suburban community until our neighbors were burgled in broad daylight. Then I started reading the police reports in the local paper, and checking a community website that posts a daily list of crimes, attempted crimes and imagined crimes that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the London of Charles Dickens’ time.

The community as a whole seems unconcerned about this. In fact, they are strangely cooperative, making things as easy as possible for the criminal fraternity. Cars, it seems, are never locked, and nor are doors or windows. If the crime reports are to be believed, the bedtime routine for many families consists of placing keys, purses, credit cards, cell phones and probably a laptop on the car seat and leaving the car unlocked in the driveway, then making sure that the house doors and windows are left unsecured, switching off the alarm, and settling down for a peaceful sleep before calling the police in the morning. This must drive the police crazy.

Home security systems play a big part in magnifying this suburban crime wave. They don’t prevent it, but they do at least take pictures of it — most of them showing young males in hoodies creeping around the house and testing doors. (It’s a sad comedown from the glory days of crime when burglars could scale vertical walls and pick any lock. Now they just walk in the front door.) Next day the home security video is posted on the website with the question: “Have you seen this man?” Well, yes, I see him almost every day, and he looks exactly like everybody else. That’s the problem.

In fact, the security cameras, and video doorbells themselves, are sometimes stolen by the thieves, presumably concerned about security in their own homes, as well as they might be. This is all petty crime, as distinct from the billion-dollar scams that go on up in the glass towers of the big city every day. But it’s disturbing because it is, literally, so close to home.

Out on the highway the stores seem to be having a hard time keeping anything in stock. When I was young, the bad boys (that is, the other boys) might steal a piece of candy occasionally. Now they are more ambitious by far. Big, bulky items, like generators, tool sets, ladders, motor mowers, dozens of cans of beer and thousands of dollars’ worth of shoes and clothing, just walk out the door. Stores have obviously abandoned all pretense of security and accepted a sort of perpetual low-level looting. Some people are hard up, of course, and perhaps desperate in these bad economic times. But they don’t need ride on mowers or expensive sneakers.

If your home is on the market and you decide to have an Open House, your Open House may quickly turn into an empty house. Sheets, towels, electronics, kitchen equipment and even furniture may be removed without shame, as well as desirable plants from the garden.

All this is just the tip of a vast iceberg of bad behavior and casual dishonesty that has crept up on us recently, another aspect of the “new normal.” Those of us who never even stole a piece of candy and who, incidentally, are paying for all this thievery by way of insurance premiums and police services, have a right to be rather annoyed with all these amateur criminals. They are like the bad boys at school who got away with every kind of cheating and left the rest of us with a lingering doubt as to whether honesty really was the best policy.

Copyright: David Bouchier

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.