Burglary is not just a property crime, says Susan Ryder.
The feeling occurs straight away. You may not be able to put your finger on it and it might even take a bit longer to register that something is wrong, but you know from the outset that something’s definitely not right.
And then it hits you -- hard. The realisation can be overwhelming and sickening and frightening, all at once. You’ve been burgled.
Other factors come into play, too, such as the extent of the damage and time of discovery; (the darkness always makes things more ominous). And if you’re alone when you discover the circumstances, it can be really horrible.
It’s happened to the homes of my parents and sisters. In fact my little sister’s house was broken into twice in two days while we were in Australia celebrating the wedding of our other sister. That was dandy, my brother-in-law having to cut his holiday short to get back to oversee the situation – and during the Easter break, too, when airline seats were as scarce as brains on The Bachelor. My parents’ store was also burgled on two occasions.
Touch wood, my own experience is limited to my wallet being stolen in Portugal and latterly, my car broken into one evening in Auckland. Driving home afterward was awful. The damage and subsequent theft of property was bad enough, but the thought of an unknown person or persons in my car made my skin crawl. Being penniless in Lisbon was no picnic either, but that’s for another time.
Yesterday I learned that a family friend, an older woman who lives alone, was burgled last Saturday night. She was away; ironically, she was doing an absent friend a good turn by caring for the latter’s home and pets for the night. The perpetrators broke in and ransacked the place, helping themselves to many of her possessions along the way. As a parting shot, they generously left the front door and windows wide open for good measure. She discovered the mess the next morning. Lord only knows when the local police will arrive to file the necessary reports. It took the same police force two months and several reminders to visit my sister back in 2003.
If you haven’t been burgled, it’s difficult to comprehend exactly how it feels. Natural emotions range from frustrated to furious, but worst of all is the knowledge that strangers have been tramping through your home, fingering your belongings and rifling through your cupboards and drawers with callous indifference. My mother couldn’t wait for the police to finish up so she could wash her clothes. She hauled everything out of the dressers and systematically washed the lot. And then she started on Dad’s.
In the following days you walk down the street and wonder “was it him?” or “does she know what I’ve got in my home?” and “they know where I live ... will they come back?”
In the case of our business customers – and they were many – it was hard not to suspect them all, even though I hated myself for it. It’s an awful feeling that stays with you for some time.
Not that the arseholes concerned give a toss about you. They don’t give two hoots that your children might be terrified; that you can’t sleep for worrying; that you jump at every strange sound – especially at night – and automatically brace yourself when pulling up in the driveway for months afterwards. It’s either a professional situation or a bit of fun to them. They’re banking on you being insured, (responsible people are like that); and that your sanctuary has been ruthlessly violated doesn’t occur to them, let alone matter.
Some people don’t consider property crime to be serious, former Police Minister Ann Hercus, for one. Ms Hercus, who went on to become New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United Nations, is on record as saying as much in the late 1980s. To this day, she doubtless believes in more lenient punishment for those who commit property crimes. Those concerned are probably disadvantaged or misunderstood or “had a difficult childhood”, don’t you know. It never ceases to astonish as to how the abuser is of more concern to these clowns than the abused.
So now it’s my friend Lyn’s turn to go through this hateful situation. She’s a sweet, generous person by nature, although right now I imagine she’s rather less concerned with the personal woes of her burglars.
And unlike Ann Hercus, I’m with Lyn.
* * Read Susan’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *