Friday, August 15, 2008

Eyes Wide Open

Sorry, this is a rant but I must get it out!

Heard a house alarm blaring.
Suspect #1 seen running to a car parked nearby: Hispanic male, 20-30 yrs of age, 150-160#, shaven or near shaven head, t-shirt and shorts
Suspect #2, driver: Unknown
Car: Red, looked like a Ford Focus, no front license plate

That's what I told police yesterday as I left my house shortly after lunch. It happened all in a matter of seconds just a block from where I live. I heard a house alarm faintly while in my car, rolled down my window to make sure it was what I thought it was, turned to look in the direction of the sound, saw a guy running to a car parked the wrong way on a side street. The car took off quickly and pulled up right in back of me as I waited to cross a major intersection. I was in the way of their only exit out of our little quiet subdivision.

What to do? Should I stay there to block them in and call police? What if they have a gun or become violent? What did I really see?

Well, I wasn't 100% sure they had anything to do with the alarm since I didn't even know which house it was coming from. The guy running to the car wasn't carrying anything and could have just been in a hurry to get someplace (like me). So I turned left (while they turned right), continued on for a bit, pulled over and called the police non-emergency number to report a suspicious incident.

Unfortunately, I have that number programmed in my cell phone. A year ago, I came home from the pool and saw a couple of high school age guys and a car parked in front of a house two doors from me but assumed they were friends of the kids who lived there and didn't pay much attention to them (the house had been broken into). A couple months ago, another house about 5 doors away was burglarized sometime in the middle of the day when the owner(s) was at work (I never heard or saw a thing). On my way to the pool a couple weeks ago, my neighbor across the street was busted for drugs and possession of an illegal firearm (AK-47). Other neighbors had apparently noticed the number of cars that were coming and going and reported the suspicious activity. I'd noticed a lot of cars but didn't put two and two together.

God, am I stupid or what???

Yes, not to think that things wouldn't be happening right under my nose.

I've known for a long time to be vigilant when I'm out running having had two threats to my personal safety and knowing the East-side Rapist still continues to make local headlines periodically preying on joggers and walkers in my area. Among his latest possible victims, a jogger found murdered along my favorite bike path a couple months ago and a bicyclist knocked off her bike and attacked day before yesterday. Jeez, what's wrong with people?

But now vigilance begins at home. You see, I'm one of the few who are in/out and around my neighborhood during the day because I work from home. I know there are guys that come around knocking on doors and windows to see if people are home and if they're not (or don't answer), they break in. I assume that it can and will happen to me. My husband and I have talked about possibly getting a hand gun but for now I have pepper spray near my bed, in my office and with me whenever I'm outside mowing the yard, walking to the mailbox or going out anywhere. I'm paying more attention to cars (colors, makes, models, any distinguishing signs) and people (what they look like, what they're wearing, what they're doing and whether they belong in our neighborhood). Ha, I'm already thinking that part of my training for the Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon could be LOTS of laps around my neighborhood and double as a crime watch.

And wouldn't it be great if someone called the police to report a suspicious little woman running in their neighborhood for hours? It'd mean someone actually noticed and cared enough to call.

Because one of the bad things about living in a small quiet "good" neighborhood is that people assume it's safe. They don't notice things, are too busy to get to know others, and don't want to get involved in things like a Neighborhood Crime Watch Program (every year we try to start one but there's not enough interest *sigh*). Wake up, people!

Thank goodness school starts next week. A lot of crap that goes on here in Orlando is supposedly just kids bored over the summer and looking to make a quick buck. Oh, and the thing I reported yesterday, yes, it was a burglary attempt (signs of forced entry) but the guys were apparently scared off by the alarm. Hopefully they won't be back.


RBR said...

Lordy Shirley! That is crazy! Running alone kind of freaks me out too, but more often than not it is unavoidable.

It is great that you are paying attention. You are a one-woman neighborhood watch!

Tammy said...

Wow sounds like my neighborhood. LOL. Someone broke into my neighbors condo while I was home a few years ago. Now I was so sick with my son, I didn't think of looking outside to see what all that noise was because my neighbor next to me is very noisey. Although, the cops and my upstairs neighbor kind know who did this, they have no proof unfortunately. I'm the lucky one with the alarm.. the only one in my building side with one, I'm the only one that so far has not been broken into, although, it has been attempted good to always keep in eye out on my neighbors. Be careful, :( sorry to hear that it's getting that bad out there. (I run early in the morning when its still dark, hopefully that will change soon)

Brittany M. said...

One woman neighborhood watch, I like it. Good for you though...I'm an MP, so I'd much rather have vigilant (not paranoid) people make some calls that don't pan out than have no one with their eyes open. I had my house broken into in Dec and not a neighbor did a thing as my alarm just rang and rang...

I laughed at the idea of someone calling you in..I run in the dark in my neighborhood and have though someone might do that too--but it's too obvious I'm a runner with my lycra, blinky light, and fuel belt. I did, however, accidently set a car alarm off one morning...I hardly brushed it...opps.

Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

Don't try to block a car trying to make a getaway. That's the job for the police. Obviously, if the guy attacks you, then throw him hard to the ground. Install surveillance cameras by your home. Move to a more upscale neighborhood.
Better still, move to Japan where you can walk or run safely at night. In Taiwan I have never seen anyone like the people you talk of and my wife can always travel safely here using a little common sense.

Anonymous said...

Shirley! That's scary! You really kept your head though. And the neighborhood watch is a great idea. I hear you on the kids out of school. I wish there was some way they'd have activities they'd like to do and keep busy in the summer.

Susan said...

Sherriff Shirley! Your neighborhood is LUCKY to have you.

I wish I'd had a SS in my old "quiet, good" neighborhood!

MarathonChris said...

Wow - that is scary...thing of the things we DON'T hear about.

My pepper spray is with me on all my runs...

Runner Leana said...

Wow, lots of crazy stuff going on in your neighborhood! Good for you for calling the police. I had the same thought this morning that I assume that I'm okay running at 5:30 am, but shouldn't I really be more vigilant? Lots of stuff to think about.

IrishBlue said...

I'm glad you are so careful and aware of your surroundings. I'm sure your martial arts training taught you that. I only took Aikido briefly, but I learned to be aware.

Hang in there and stay safe!!

Smithposts said...

Very frightening! Pepper spray and a cell phone attached to your hip...a must. Be careful with the pepper spray though. I have a friend who was chasing a squirel with pepper spray (actually bear spray)and he sprayed while running. Not thinking, he ran through the mist and, well, he had more issues than the squirel.

Be careful Shirley!

peter said...

Way to be responsible and observant. And to get out of the way when they came behind you! (Run the red light if you have to.)

Jade Lady said...

Never a dull month in your neighborhood. It's sad though. I guess most of your readers don't know you were once majored in criminal justice.

I hope things will ease up with the start of school, but don't bet on it. These guys weren't high schoolers, and neither were the guys across the street.