In my job, I frequently write unsigned — and windy — Editorials, decrying injustice and the need for more tolerance, rehabilitation and even redemption. More gun control.
I write about the plight of addiction, about the need to end chronic recidivism among released prisoners, about attacking scourges like gang violence with education and after-school programs, and about more services for the mentally ill, the homeless and the indigent.
But as the saying goes, “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” I didn’t say that, but I get it.
Actually, what I get is angry at the criminals, the crooks and thieves, who keep this area on edge. Keep my family on edge.
Last week, for the second time in three months, we were the subject of a break-in at our home.
The first took place in early November. Two bikes were stolen out of our garage. The thief or thieves entered through a side door that had been left temporarily unlocked. While I was out of town, others were staying at our house. We also had construction equipment blocking our driveway, so whoever stole the bikes had to actually lift them overhead to get them out the driveway.
No matter. Gone. I started scouring Craigslist, because stolen bikes often end up for sale on that popular site. I didn’t go to the other popular outlet for dealing with stolen merchandise, the Flea Market, because … I don’t know why. Maybe I just felt it was just a useless, vainglorious search.I replaced the stolen bikes and double locked the new ones and increased security around our garage.
I should note we live in a pretty nice neighborhood, with neighbors who watch out for suspicious activities and are usually quick to report anything. Usually.
Then Thursday I got a call from my wife. My daughter’s car had been broken into and a navigation device and a few other things stolen. In broad daylight, late afternoon. The thief then moved on to another vehicle parked in the driveway of a rental on our property. Our renter was sitting in her truck finishing a phone call when the thief, obviously not seeing her, tried to get into the vehicle. She got a good look at him. He looked back at her. They both froze. Then he took off. She quickly notified my daughter, who jumped in her car and tried to give chase. Not a good idea, by the way. In any case, the thief melted into the neighborhood.
Sheriff’s deputies were called and showed up quickly. The deputy who filed our report was extremely helpful, I’m told, taking time to get the complete story of what happened, dusting for fingerprints, writing down the details of the sighting. He told the women that he really hoped this case would lead to an arrest. He also lived in the area, he said.
The next day, the Sheriff’s Office called me and followed up, letting me know that with the positive ID there might be a chance at finding the thief.
Was it the same guy, or gang, that stole our bikes a few months before? Beats me.At the same time, I know that the chances of any property crime, or break-in, leading to an arrest are pretty slim.
And despite the headlines in the Sentinel about crime — the daily report of human failings we faithfully pass along — local law enforcement says that reported burglaries, assaults, robberies and rapes in unincorporated Santa Cruz County declined in 2012 compared with the past few years.
There were 723 reported burglaries in unincorporated county areas, which was nearly 200 fewer burglaries than in 2011, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The rate of arrests per burglary also increased from 6.7 percent in 2011 to 7.9 percent in 2012. While that was an improvement, it trails the FBI’s national average of 12.7 percent of arrests per burglary in 2011.
The rate of arrest per violent crimes — such as assault and robbery — was about 39.5 percent in 2012 for the Sheriff’s Office. The national average was 47.7 percent in 2011.Of course, there are far more property crimes than violent crimes, and it’s good news whenever large-scale burglary rings are apprehended, which does happen.
One such successful ending came last August 2012, when a man and woman were arrested after allegedly breaking into numerous homes, cars and storage units to gather identity information.
And I have to admit I got more than a little satisfaction when our crime reporter came back Thursday with the news that two brazen bike thieves had been caught in Santa Cruz. Both were caught trying to steal bikes by cutting their locks. Our county government reporter also may have been temporarily satisfied, since he’d had his bike stolen after he’d locked it at the county Government Center on Ocean Street last week. Apparently, the reading public agreed — as of Friday afternoon, our account of the arrests was the most read story in our constantly updating online list.
Look, I know for every report of a crime, there’s probably several others that never are called in. And I also know, I haven’t been as vigilant or security conscious as I should be. I’ve had cars broken into before (one time I actually reached the thief who stole my cell phone by just calling my number).
But how do we want to live and what are we willing to put up with?
Day in, day out, in my job as editor of the local newspaper, I hear from Santa Cruz County residents who have had enough of street crime, of the proliferation of drug addicts and dealers and the crime and mess they bring with them, of ever-new recruits into criminal gangs who think jail is a badge of honor.
And I think, We’re a tolerant community, but enough’s enough.