The other week, O and I were sitting in our living room playing some PBSkids.org “video games” on my laptop when I heard a strange sound. A commotion of sorts—some yelling, rustling around, what sounded like a loudspeaker? My mind couldn’t quite process what was happening, but my body seemed to sense danger because my heart started pounding. I got up and tried to look out our picture window. Because, you know, that’s what you should do if you sense danger—look for it. I saw something, but was unsure what I saw. Curiosity killed my sensibility and, with O on my hip, I walked to the kitchen window to get a better look. I definitely got a better look—then I hit the kitchen floor.
A bunch of SWAT team members, dressed in head-to-toe SWAT gear with semi-automatic weapons drawn, had surrounded my neighbor’s house. They were pounding on the door, yelling through a bullhorn that they had a search warrant. When I happened to glance out the kitchen window, the SWAT team must’ve decided they were done waiting for the woman to open her door and busted in the house, throwing in flash bangs ahead of them as they entered. Cops were EVERYWHERE (including one at the edge of my front yard who my dog was freaking OUT at), there was an armored truck, and, um, it was pretty much insane. It all happened so fast.
“Who are the bad guys, Mommy?” O asked.
“Those aren’t bad guys, O, those are good guys. They are the police,” I said. “They just look like bad guys.” (And they really, did—dressed in dark green and black with big guns.)
The cops took my neighbor away, hung out on the street for about four more hours, and then went along their merry way. And my two year old had nightmares all night long.
I’d like to say that’s the craziest thing that’s happened in my hood recently, but unfortunately it’s not. In addition to the SWAT team, there have been multiple break-ins, a few break-in attempts, and a home invasion with add-on attempted sexual assault. NOT FUN.
I know it’s not just happening where I live. I’ve heard and read about it locally, semi-locally, and across the country. And in the vestibule of a local police station (I was there paying my ticket—I lost in court) I read in their town newsletter that they had been experiencing an increase in crime, too. They blamed it on the economy.
I don’t know if it has to do with the economy, but I do know that I’m a little scared, a lot more cautious, and very pissed off. So I was happy to see that a neighbor sent a sort of “neighborhood watch” letter with some tips on how to keep your neighborhoods safe. I thought I’d share.
• Turn on your porch/outside lights, and leave them on overnight
• Keep your windows and doors locked at all times. If you are working in your backyard, keep your front door locked. Don’t leave for work with any ground windows open.
• Install an alarm system and use it.
• Install motion lights around your house. Thieves won’t know if you’ve turned it on or if it was a motion light. (This was actually recommended to me by a cop after someone ripped off the side mirror of my car just for the fun of it.)
• Be observant of your surroundings/street. You probably have a good idea of your neighbor’s cars and frequent visitors look like. Let people that might look suspicious know that you see him or her. Recognition is not what a thief wants.
• Call the police if you notice suspicious behavior. As the woman who sent the letter said, “I would prefer someone call the police to report a potential break-in to my house than ignore it, even if it turns out to be my brother who forgot is his key.”
• Keep your cars locked at all times.
• If you are leaving for a few days, tell a neighbor you can trust. Put lights on timers, and ask the neighbor to collect mail and/or newspapers.
Some of these tips might seem like “no duh” advice, but I think they are worth repeating. If it helps one person, well, hallelujah. And if all else fails, I could call up Shadow Hare to patrol my community. (You could too, if you live in Cincinnati.)
(For those who were wondering, the SWAT team invasion was for a drug bust.)