Comfort Among The Burgled

You’re not alone.

That was the overwhelming message from MidWeek readers who reached out to my family after learning our home was burglarized last month. I knew the story would literally strike a nerve with people, especially those who’ve experienced this senseless crime, but I didn’t anticipate the enormous feedback.

Many of you said retelling your very personal stories was therapeutic and helped release anger that still raged inside. Others said they were comforted knowing they were not alone.

In a strange way, I too found comfort knowing others were coping with this horrible feeling. Misery loves company? I don’t believe that’s the case, but there is a feeling of relief when you share your emotions with someone who understands.

Many of our neighbors thanked us for getting the word out. I was starting to feel better about the frustrating ordeal, until I learned one of my neighbors suffered a similar crime three weeks later. Same modus operandi: Enter through a window, exit through the front door.

According to criminologists, a professional criminal is likely to stick to a particular way of operating as long as the method works. Studies show, some burglars become so attached to their MO that they hit the same places or even the same people over and over.

I received dozens of emails since the original story several weeks ago, and one from a woman named “Kathryn” included great security tips that I failed to mention.

Kathryn spoke from experience. Her home was burglarized three years ago.

“The horrid feeling still lingers to this day,” she says.

Like many burglary victims, she lost valuables that she had since childhood, items that have no meaning to a thief but are simply priceless.

“A silver plastic Buddha my Mom got for me when she visited Japan in the ’60s, a childhood silver plastic Jesus ring that I used to pretend had magic powers, and a cheap bicycle charm that my sister gave me in my teen years when I loved to cycle everywhere,” she says. “I’m certain these items ended up in the dump. These were items where my heart fluttered every time I opened my jewelry box.

“Of course, with them went my wedding ring that was left on the night-stand and somehow the thieves brazenly walked out with a new printer and two old laptops to their vehicle.”

Since then she shares her version of security with those willing to listen. Kathryn, we’re all ears:

1) Take the risk to reach out: Even waving at neighbors and smiling. I like to offer plant cuttings and even drop a treat on doorsteps during holidays. A giving heart lets neighbors know you’re not just “out for your own” property. We are all connected in some way whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

2) Watch the flow: What are people’s schedules in the homes around you?

3) Get familiar with familiar: Here in Hawaii we try to be respectful and not ni’ele. But your neighbor will probably appreciate it if you casually mention a strange noise at night or an unfamiliar car driving through the area repeatedly.

4) Consider offering your phone and mail contacts. If something goes awry, a person close by could call you.

5) Consider visibility: We all like our privacy, and island homes are often close together. However, before you put up that tall fence barrier, look at your home’s vulnerable access areas. Could an observant neighbor see or hear a break in? Could the security of visibility outweigh the privacy?

6) Consider your Neighborhood Board: You’ll be kept abreast of what’s going on around you.

“During these times of high technology and crazed commuting, we need to remember how to personally connect to be there for each other in a way that’s comfortable for us,” she said.

Kathryn, it makes perfect sense, and really it’s another way of saying, you’re not alone.