Near the end of August I returned home from running errands to find my back door wide open. Another mother might panic, immediately assuming a break-in, and fearing for the safety of her children.
Not I. My main emotion was immediate and intense irritation. I entered the house, juggling multiple packages and scattering apples on the floor, screeching, “Hey- whaddya live in a barn?! Close the door!”
Of course I was met with absolute silence, as my teenage children had long since left the premises, so intent on their gourmet coffee run to Atwater’s Bakery that they completely neglected the safety of all of our earthly possessions.
Wait, that’s not quite right. Had we been robbed, my children would have been fine as they wouldn’t have left anything of importance in our home. Like satellites, my children carry their electronic devices on their persons at all times. I fondly recall one instance last year during my son’s annual check-up at the pediatrician, when I realized he still managed to keep his iPod touch in hand, even though he was wearing nothing more than a paper gown and mismatched socks.
As for security, the only response I received upon entering the house was a whistle from the guinea pig. Our dog, usually quite adept at patrolling the house and barking violently at any movement, had taken the open door as an invitation and was snoozing under the oak tree in our backyard. As for our ancient cat, Figaro, he’s fairly useless. Although I suppose any thief would leave in disgust if he got close enough to catch a gander at the bodily fluids occasionally leaking out of the poor cat’s eyes.
But move forward to October and times sure have changed. In the last few weeks, a rash of home break-ins have intensified in the Catonsville area, leading me to ensure that our house is locked at all times and the dog ready and waiting to frisk anyone he doesn’t recognize.
Eight successful break-ins in the Catonsville area have been in the . have been reported to the Precinct One/Wilkens area since August 18.
And these criminals are bold. Many of the burglaries occur during daylight hours, or at times when families are likely to be at home and awake.
Catonsville resident Tracy Rehmert recently experienced first-hand the brashness of these criminals. Last Thursday, she and her family were home when thieves attempted a break-in. At approximately 8:10 p.m., Rehmert suddenly heard a loud bashing sound coming from the front of her house.
Rehmert recalled, “It was evident that someone was trying to knock down the front door. After hearing our screams, the person or persons stopped and left. Afterwards, we called 911 and officers came to our residence.”
Unfortunately no one has yet to be apprehended for the attempted break in.
“I've been looking for an increased police presence in the neighborhood but I haven't really seen an increase in police patrolling the neighborhood,” Rehmert stated.
Informally, a lack of police presence has been noted by others in Catonsville. A casual poll taken by me of persons in my Newburg neighborhood showed that none have seen additional police patrolling either by car or bicycle. Neither has an increase in patrols been noted by a neighbor in a surrounding neighborhood, who suffered a break-in in late August. Is it possible that the Catonsville area may be too large for the police that support it?
It may be that the recent break-ins are not extreme, but just crime as usual. It’s also possible that crimes of a more serious nature are necessarily taking precedence over the burglaries. The real answer is likely a complicated mix of statistics, policies and politics.*
Many Catonsville residents have received automated messages from police informing them of the recent crimes in the area, and warning homeowners to take care. However, it’s important that communication works both ways. Our community needs to maintain contact with our local precinct as well, following up on crime reports to ensure that vigilance is maintained and criminals are apprehended.
In addition, local Citizens on Patrol (COP) groups have been trying to warn neighbors of the recent crimes, and are vigilantly patrolling the neighborhoods they cover.
So who’s to blame for the recent crime spree? The police? The economy? Or a lack of neighborly concern?
So far, the crooks seem to be winning. Certainly the police need us to help by helping ourselves. Lock doors, leave lights and/or the television on, and leave a car in the driveway.
Keep an eye on your neighbor’s house as well.
And kids, close the back door.
*NOTE- I placed a call to the Wilken’s Precinct Community Outreach line to find out more information, but have not received a return call as of the publication of this column.