so we get a call on monday night from the santa clara county sherriff’s office saying that they have some items from our house burglary the week before. they asked if we could meet them at the office the next day at 9am. after getting lost trying to get some morning coffee at the rivermercado, we got to the office to find a conference room full of stuff. the officer there said that there were about 5-6 families’ stuff that they recovered from a couple people in a stolen uhaul and their hideout at a local motel 6. i got my camera back, les got most of her purses and some of her jewelry back too. we’re still waiting for a couple weeks to either complete or cancel our insurance claim because we don’t know yet if the rest of the things will turn up. they also had taken some things that we didn’t realize were missing like a checkbook, a credit card bill. they did end up having the registration stickers for the yukon.
the officer said that our house was the only one hit in fremont and the other houses were scattered across the bay area. that was a little weird to me, and makes me feel like we were targeted somehow. the officer asked if we had been a victim of identity theft in the past several months, and of course his guess was right. he said that they have seen that recently, where people get their mail taken from them and then a few months later they get broken into. i’m not sure what the connection could be and he declined to elaborate.
the officers were actually thankful that we came in to get our stuff. the more items that were left unclaimed, they said they had to do a mountain of paperwork. they even were dropping hints to take stuff that we maybe even weren’t too sure was ours, just to get it out of their hair. i told the main officer to give me a call if there was some stuff left over after the families went through it – there was a good camcorder there, along with a couple game systems and things.
one theory i have is that they came in during an open house of ours – only because the house would have been open and they could have scoped it out pretty well about how to get in and what stuff they may have taken. most of our goods were in the garage during our open house, like the jewlery box and my camera. but they did show up at our place on tuesday with a uhaul truck and that might have looked not as suspicious when people were moving stuff from the house into a uhaul when there’s a “for sale” sign in the front yard.
the officers that nabbed them were actually working for a stolen car task force in the bay area when they ran across our items – they weren’t specifically looking out for crooks in our particular robbery. he said they’re a bunch of meth-heads that already had 2 strikes on them and this will be the third, considering the value of the goods taken. i was a little worried that i’d have to testify against them but he assured me that they could prosecute without my testimony, provided i leave them some item that was taken which could be personally identified. we left behind an old checkbook which had our name and address. this alone should be enough to convict them. we’ll be moved out soon anyway, and so i won’t have to worry about them coming back at all.
so, after some careful thought, here’s some other suggestions coming from a recent victim of some property crime:
- anything over $100, record a little something about the item and tuck it away. something low-tech like writing a couple lines in a notebook about where you bought it, a serial number, and how much it cost – or something higher-tech like scanning the receipt and posting it to a secret flickr account. this way, even if your computer is stolen, all your receipts are online somewhere. this would make recovery very quick.
- get a small house safe for your important documents like passports, birth certificates and any other old idenfitication documents. cranksters will try to establish credit in your name, so keep these items under wraps. it doesn’t have to be a fort knox-style safe, just something that would take longer than 5-10 minutes to open or pry loose. remember, they want to be in and out quickly and won’t fiddle with a small safe that’s bolted securely to the ground.
- get an alarm system. of all the officers we met at the sherriff’s office, each asked if we had an alarm system. the main officer we dealt with said that even though a police response to an activated house alarm can be 15-45 minutes, the noise and attention it brings could deter some people, or at least shorten their stay in the house. with an adt system, for example, they will call the homeowner when the alarm is tripped so you might have a better idea about when your house was broken into. also, you could get home sooner and alert the authorities sooner if you know when the house was burgled. we didn’t find out for several hours, until people started coming home.
- get a dog. a loud, medium-sized dog may make people think twice about hanging out in the backyard to try and pry a window open. they may not even try to break in from the front of the house, in plain view of people driving by.
anyway, thanks to everyone for their support. hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.