The Street Where You Live

Let’s just say you walked out to your car, the way you do every day if you have a car, and you looked in and saw the stereo was gone. Neatly and completely removed.

It happens. No sense getting too worked up. Nobody’s hurt, after all.

But what if it’s the third time it’s happened in this particular car, parked in the middle of your safe, seemingly immune little middle-class neighborhood (and when the stereo isn’t being ripped off, the car’s roof and hood are being kicked in or the windshield smashed)?

Then maybe you start thinking about all the other things that have happened on your safe, seemingly immune street since you moved in back in the late ’80s. You recall in no particular order:

The rapist who was caught after casing the house across the street.

The two laptops someone scooped up from your desk after smashing your kitchen window while you were out at the ballgame.

The innumerable late-evening front-door encounters with victims of empty gas tanks, freeway wrecks or other fictional misfortunes who just needed five or ten bucks to help them deal with the emergency.

The random misfortunate who snatched a purse from a neighbor’s house as the neighbor tried to verify the poor guy’s sketchy story.

The guy who showed up at 1 a.m., pounding on the door and demanding money from your wife while you were working.

The two or three or four other cars broken into in front of your house.

The neighbors who one day couldn’t find their car because it had been stolen overnight.

The stolen car that was dumped on the street, right in front of you, in broad daylight.

The break-in at the across-the-street neighbor’s place.

The break-in at the neighbor’s place three doors up.

The several occasions on which would-be burglars were interrupted while casing targets.

The bikes stolen from the back of your house and from behind one of your neighbors’ homes.

The commuter robbed at gunpoint up the street as he returned for his car after work.

The dad out walking with his kids who had a gun pulled on him during an attempted robbery.

The neighbor whose back-porch Sunday breakfast was interrupted by a guy coming over the fence with a suitcase. The neighbor asked what was going on, and the over-the-fence guy just said, “Stay out of my way” and kept on going.

One way I can look at all this: Hey, no one died. You can replace property, fix windows, buy a new car stereo, and get over your fear and sense of violation. But the way I looked at it when I discovered the stereo gone was not so reasoned and cool. It feels like this place asks a lot sometimes for the privilege of living here, and sometimes I detest the cost.

I’ve got no answers, or apologies, either. Just chewing it over.

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7 Replies to “The Street Where You Live”

  1. Added up like that, it seems like a lot. But, it didn’t all happen at the same time, or even during the same weekend.
    There’s always something going on in my neighborhood. I’ve had the windows shot out on my car. My living room window shot at (it must have been a small caliber because the bullet went straight through the double layer plate glass leaving a nickel size hole.)
    I think it’s like that everywhere. There’s no escaping it, unless maybe you’re a multi-millionaire and can afford a walled lot with guards and Dobermans. So then you may avoid getting your car broke into, but you have a new set of problems with curiosity seekers trying to climb over the wall to see if they might glimpse you laying naked by the pool.
    One night last spring my daughter and I witnessed an obvious drug deal in the street 50 feet in front of our house. I said, oh look at that. She said, do you think we should call the police? It hadn’t even occurred to me to call the police. I think because I’ve become so immune to crime in general.
    I don’t know what to tell ya, except, keep your doors locked and your gun and bullets nearby. But in different places.

  2. Dan: Your laundry list is better than mine and I have been in NYC all these years. I mean all that stuff was happening around here but, for the most part I never saw much of it, let alone fell victim.

  3. jb: And I’m not even mentioning the stuff that has happened off the block (various family members have been accosted around town). It’s weird–I almost feel like stuff happens around here because there’s a feeling it’ll be tolerated.
    Marie: Well, I do call the cops. The rapist I mentioned? He
    was arrested and eventually tried and sent to prison
    because I called him in.
    As far as guns go: They’re just way too effective at
    what they do for me to feel safe with them around.
    One of my kids had a playmate take out his father’s
    semi-automatic pistol while they were alone at the
    other kid’s house. They were both about 10 years old.
    Nothing happened. I called the father and told him
    what had transpired and suggested he make sure his son
    couldn’t get hold of the gun so easily. A few years
    later, the same kid pulled out his dad’s pistol — a
    different one, I gather — while another playmate was
    over. He took the magazine out, aimed it at the other
    boy, and pulled the trigger. He hadn’t cleared the
    bullet in the gun’s chamber, though, and the gun
    fired. The kid was hit in the chest and killed pretty
    much instantly.
    I know not all gun owners are so stupid and careless
    as this dad was. Still. Human nature being what it is,
    I’d rather keep my distance from something so
    irrevocable and final. (Here’s a not often discussed
    fact: Most gunshot deaths in the United States are
    End of speech.

  4. I don’t like car alarms because I used to live next to a parking lot where they were always going off for no reason. But I guess if I had a nice stereo stolen three times I’d either get the kind I remove and take with me, or I’d get an alarm. It would be no loss if mine was stolen, as the one in my twenty-year-old car barely works. (How pathetic am I?)
    Maybe the real question is, why are there so many people who are so unhappy that they resort to crime (or to killing themselves with their own guns)?

  5. I don’t like car alarms, either (previously, I didn’t like home security systems; but after we were broken into, we got one, as much for my wife’s peace of mind as anything else). The irony about that stereo was that it wasn’t really that nice; if someone was stealing it to sell, they’re only going to get 20 or 30 bucks for it (a guess only since I haven’t been to the hot-goods market lately). On the other hand, 20 or 30 bucks is a lot if you don’t have it to start out with; and that’s my answer to the question you pose.

  6. >I think it’s like that everywhere.
    No, it isn’t.
    >There’s no escaping it
    Of course there is. Jesus. I get the idea that if people live here longer than 5 years or so, they become so insulated from what the real world is like that they forget that it can be different, and rational.
    The Bay Area is a shit pit with really nice weather, filled with criminals and assholes. But there are nice outdoor areas surrounding it. That’s the only reason I stay here. I’m in the Oakland hills, just above the Dimond neighborhood. A few blocks away, it’s crap. Here, it’s nice, and most of that kind of stuff doesn’t happen. No way I’d ever live in even a marginally crappy neighborhood in the Bay Area ever again. I’ve learned my lesson.
    But as long as the Berkeley City Council keeps passing measures letting us all know that they don’t like Bush, what the hell. I guess it’s worth it.

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